One of the frustrations that I have had in preparing these sermons is in knowing how much to include and how much to leave out. If we were to preach on all of the doctrine and on all of the implications of this chapter for life, it would take us through the end of the year to finish. So I have had to reluctantly dump tons of teaching and tons of applications and just restrict my preaching to the purpose for this foundations series. In our first sermon we looked at the Creation account to draw out the implications of God's authority. We saw that this text rather boldly confronts eight pagan worldviews and in place of those shows God authority, expertise and control over every area of life. So that was a sermon that was encouraging us to take God's Word seriously on everything that it spoke about, and we saw that God speaks to all of life. His covenant is comprehensive.
While the first sermon outlined eight pagan worldviews that deny the authority of this Creation account, the second sermon outlined 19 theories within the evangelical camp itself that wiggles out from under the authority of God.
Today, I want to point the finger at ourselves. It is easy for a solid, Bible believing Christian to be so devoted to a theory (in this case, six day creationism), that the text is kind of forced to fit a certain model of six day creationism. And again, like with those previous theories, our motivations can be good and our desires to defend God's Word can be applauded. But to deny God's Word in the process of trying to defend God's Word is not a good strategy. And so many times we do this unwittingly. It's not intentional. Just like with the theories we looked at last week, the compromises are not always willful compromises. I have seen in my own life in the past various ways in which I have unwittingly been infected by the spirit of our age – the spirit of feminism, egalitarianism. And my point is that it's not just the world out there that we need to watch out for, but we also need to watch out for the weakness of our own hearts and minds and our own fallibility. We all tend to interpret Scripture through the lenses of our past experiences, our denominational commitments, what we have already learned, etc. You could liken it to looking at something through tinted glasses. And we constantly need to be reevaluating our positions and asking the Spirit to open our eyes to things that we may be blind to. Davids's prayer, Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thine law, is a prayer that is near and dear to my heart. The prayer in Psalm 119:10, O let me not wander from Your commandments, is another one. And so we are going to be looking at the danger of compromising the authority of God's Word even within the six day creation movement.
Last week we finished verse 5, and we have come to a section that has puzzled many interpreters. Let's read verses 6-8. Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
Before we look at what this passage means, let me make an observation that relates to our views of inspiration. Was there any human present here to record these events? Obviously not. So how did Moses get the information? It's very common among evangelical scholars to assume that all Biblical historians were either eyewitnesses or used previous histories. In fact, you are academically suspect if you think that God directly revealed large amounts of historical information to man. And I'm quite content to be academically suspect because I am convinced that while God frequently inspired Biblical authors to gather information from various sources and to communicate it infallibly, that He also frequently gave them information no-one else would know about. After all, history is not what men record. It is His Story. It is God's story, when properly interpreted.
Some authors think that we need to say at least that Moses got this information from tablets passed down from Noah or Adam, or others say it was oral tradition. And supposedly this gives a degree of plausibility to the first eleven chapters. Personally, I think it is simply an accommodation to liberal source criticism and redaction criticism. The assumption seems to be that Moses is too far removed from the historical events to have such specific information as we find recorded in the book of Genesis, and especially the first eleven chapters. But people who say that have a suspect view of inspiration. You see, even if it is true that Moses collected every bit of information in the book of Genesis from clay tablets (or from oral tradition), it still begs the question of how God reveals things because we need to ask, "Where did Adam get his information from?" He couldn't have gotten it by observation. It had to be directly revealed. And if it had to be directly revealed to Adam, why couldn't it have been directly revealed to Moses? Do you see what I am getting at? I think the answer to that question uncovers a problem that even conservatives sometimes have. Though God used the vocabulary of Moses and the skills of Moses as a writer, every jot and tittle of these chapters had to have been directly revealed from above. The reason I make this obvious observation is that you will run across commentaries by conservatives that use interpretive methods that are liberal to the core. One such method is source criticism that looks at hints in the text as to what divergent sources the authors of the bible got their material from. Source criticism is suspect, even if it is used by conservatives. Biblical history is not true because men witnessed it or carefully gathered the information from other sources. History is true because it is His Story; God's story; it's revelation. And its His to reveal when and where He chooses. And I think this is a great illustration of that. No one was there on creation days 1-5, yet God gave accurate history through Moses by inspiration.
Now that doesn't mean that we understand everything that God had Moses record. There are many things that are clear. Others, we can guess at. And I think these verses are one of those parts of this chapter that present a bit of a puzzle to all Christians, whether creationists or not. And I wanted to use the material on day 2 of creation as an exercise in self-examination.
The first puzzle relates to identifying the division of these waters below from the waters above. What is referred to by the word firmament and by the word heaven? Where are the waters located? Where are the heavens located? Where is the firmament located? The word firmament simply means expanse or literally, "spread-out-thinness." So it can refer to any expanse whether an expanse of gold hammered out into a thin sheet, or it can refer to an expanse of air or some other expanse. The word heaven (Shamayim) is literally Sha (the place) mayim (of the waters). The place of the waters. That's the root meaning. But whether its original meaning is ever used in Scripture is debated. It is always translated as heaven or heavens. But for creationists who are trying to reconcile this with science there have been several interpretations.
Let me start with a chart here that shows the Hydroplate Theory. This theory began in 1681 with a book written by Thomas Burnet, was later expanded by Robert Hooke in 1705, and then was massively updated and expanded upon by Walter Brown, Douglas Cox and others in recent years. All of these authors have said that the waters below the firmament were subterranean waters and springs of the deep, and the waters above were the waters covering the surface of the planet – one giant ocean. Well, that means that the firmament of verses 6-7 on this theory is the expanse of the earth's crust. Now in favor of their theory are numerous Scriptures which speak of waters under the earth, and the flood account which seems to credit most of the waters of the flood to subterranean oceans. It fits the meaning of the word firmament. That's not a problem. That crust would have been a massive expanse.
But it is really that word shamayim (or heaven in verse 8) which is the sticky point. Verse 7 says, Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven, and then goes on to describe the separation of the waters in a way which seems to imply that the heaven he is talking about is atmosphere.
There have been two ways that those holding to the hydroplate theory have tried to get around this. The first explanation was given by Hooke in 1705. He said that this should be retranslated, "God also called the firmament Heaven," meaning, there are two firmaments, and in addition to the earth firmament in verses 6-7 there is a heavenly firmament mentioned in verse 8. Hooke points out that from this point on, Moses distinguishes firmaments by calling heaven "the firmament of the heavens (verse 14 and following)" He said that if firmament always meant heaven, why would Moses need to carefully define the later firmament as being the firmament of the heavens? That would be a tautology. He says that the phrase "the firmament of the heavens" implies that there is a firmament not of the heavens, namely the firmament of the earth. There is a degree of plausibility to this, and it definitely solves the problem of the separation of the waters. There are all kinds of Scriptures which speak of vast amounts of water under the earth. They appeal to 2 Peter 3:5-6 as a reference to these subterranean waters. And that's an interesting verse, by the way, for this theory. It says, For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flood with water. They say that Peter attributes the flood to the creation waters that the earth was standing out of and in. So there is a degree of plausibility to this interpretation.
The biggest objection is that verse 8 just does not seem to fit. He's just finished talking about this firmament that He has created, and verse 8 says, And God called the firmament Heaven. It's much more natural to say that on day two He is doing the same thing that He did on the other days: he creates something, it comes into existence, and then He names the thing created. In verse 3 (and this is on day one) God says, Let there be light, there is light, and in verse 5 He names the light. Same pattern is given on day three: In verse 9 God says, let the dry land appear, it appears, and in verse 10 God calls the dry land Earth. Well, let's apply that pattern to day 2. He says in verse 6, Let there be a firmament, in verse 7 the firmament comes into existence and in verse 8 that firmament is named: heaven. And this is what made Thomas Barnet later back off from his interpretation. It's a theory that I think could be salvaged if people opted for the literal translation of hashamayim as a place of waters, and amalgamating two or possibly even three of the different firmament theories. But this morning I am not trying to give you my theory or settle the question. I am using this to show that we have problems in our own camp.
Later advocates of the Hydroplate theory are so driven by their six day creationist model that they do something crazy. They recognize that such an interpretation as Hooke gave is jarring; it just doesn't seem to fit. So what do they do? They either question the text of Genesis 1:8, or outright deny that the first phrase of verse 8 is God's Word. Now I'm not talking about liberals who have done this. I am speaking of evangelicals who claim to hold to inerrancy of Scripture. Dr. Walter Brown isn't dogmatic. He suggests that we may simply not understand the meaning of these Hebrew words (the option I would rather that he picked) or something got inserted into the text of the bible that doesn't belong there. The very fact that he gives the latter possibility is shocking to me. But Douglas Cox goes further. He writes extensively trying to prove that the compromised Greeks under Antiochus Epiphanes did indeed change the Hebrew to immaterialize what was previously earth's crust before. I doubt that Walter Brown would endorse what Douglas has done. I hope he would cringe at it.
But both men are more willing to accept the fact that God has not preserved His Word than to question their theory. Cox explicitly rejects the first phrase in verse 8 as being the Word of God. Brothers and sisters, if top notch Biblical conservatives like Brown and like Cox can fail to submit to the authority of this phrase and both can claim contradictions in this chapter, and do so in order to defend their conception of what the bible means by firmament, it can happen to any of us. The Scriptures must drive our theories, not the theories our interpretation of the Scipture. Hooke's retranslation of this phrase is much better than denying the phrase, but it still evidences an exegesis driven by his model of six day creationism.
I think there is a way out of the dilemma each of these men has discussed that honors the text fully, if this is the model that you hold to. It's to take the literal ancient meaning of Hashamayim which is "the place of waters." Brown has done such fabulous stuff that I don't want you to think of him as a liberal. You might totally miss that phrase in his writings. He is an outstanding Biblical scholar, and that's why I put him in our camp within the camp of evangelicals. I am simply warning us, "Let's be careful." But let's move on and examine a couple of other alternative theories.
The second theory is called the Vapor Canopy theory. Actually, there are quite a number of canopy theories. I've got an overhead here that gives an artist's depiction of a proposed ice canopy breaking apart and crushing mammoths under its weight as it freezes in the north and dumps rain in other regions. I have another overhead of Saturn like rings and thick cloud cover like you have on other planets. There appear to be clouds of something over Venus, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus, some more visible than others. But the main canopy theory is the Vapor Canopy theory. I held to this theory for the past many years, and though it may still be part of the answer, I no longer believe that it is the separation of waters mentioned in this chapter. I have read many scientific criticisms of this over the years, but none of those arguments changed my mind. There is one verse that changed my mind this past week, and I will get to it.
But let me quickly describe their take on these verses. Morris and more recently Dillow have very ably argued that God placed a vast amount of water above the troposphere, perhaps even above the stratosphere in the high temperature region known as the ionosphere. The ionosphere extends quite a ways out into space and could contain an enormous amount of water vapor, enough to deluge the earth in the time of the flood with 40 feet of water. Because of the high temperatures, it would be kept in a clear, transparent vapor state through which the sun, moon and stars could shine (though some people question that). So it fits verses 14 and 15 which seem to imply that any water up there would have to be kept in a vapor form, rather than in thick cloud or ice form in the lower regions of the atmosphere. All of the canopy theories make this canopy a major contributor to the flood.
Some have objected to this theory that this would double the atmospheric pressure and provide too much oxygen and nitrogen. But Morris and others have responded that this would be beneficial just as hyperbaric chambers are beneficial today. Whitelaw and Barrow are six day creationists who claim that this vapor canopy would make the earth's temperatures way to hot: over 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Dillow has responded, and I think responded fairly well. But he has had to lower the estimates of how much water is in the atmosphere. I downloaded a paper that gives seven scientific arguments against the canopy theory. I think the worst blow against this theory is Psalm 148:4 which (long after the Flood; long after the canopy is believed to have been totally precipitated on earth) it says, Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! That is a clear reference to the Genesis 1 description and it indicates that whatever waters were separated on day two, they are still there. Now that doesn't mean it can't be both/and. It's just that the vapor canopy theory does not explain all of the biblical evidence. In David's time there was still waters above the heavens. Unless you are willing to retranslate and say that the heavens in that verse are the earth's crust (or the place of waters), there are only two theories which fit: the cloud theory (which I am strongly leaning towards) or expanding universe theory of Russell Humphreys.
Humphreys expanding universe theory believes that in verse 1 three heavens were made on day 1, first: space; second: a place beyond the space where stars exist and third: the throne room of God. On day one, all that existed in his space number 1 is a massive white hole in which a massive ball of water was created. When I say massive, I mean massive. He posits the need to have enough water that its diameter is 2 light years in diameter with an event horizon of half a billion light years away. To quote Humphreys whose whole theory presupposes Einsteinian physics (something I have questions about since it is based on the speed of light being a constant), Humphreys says,
"Because the enormous mass of the whole universe is contained in a ball of relatively small size, the gravitational force on the deep is very strong, more than a million trillion ‘g's. This force compresses the deep very rapidly toward the center, making it extremely hot and dense. The heat rips apart the water molecules, atoms, even the nuclei into elementary particles. And God said, "Let there be light" and there was light. Thermonuclear fusion reactions begin, forming heavier nuclei from lighter ones and liberating huge amounts of energy. As a consequence, an intense light illuminates the interior, breaking through to the surface and ending the darkness there." He goes on to describe this ball rapidly expanding out of the white hole into the universe leaving gases that will later be suns and eventually depositing an enormous barrier of water (now ice on its edges). It is this water that exists beyond the farthest stars which is the water above the heavens on his schema. Beyond that water barrier is the second heaven, an unknown space. And then there is God's heaven where the angels are.
It is a fascinating theory that accounts for a creation of the universe some 6000 years ago from earth standard time, but the same universe (because of the way time is affected by gravity) would be billions of years old on its edges in that same 6000 years. This answers most of the scientific problems, and most of the exegetical ones. What it does not do to my satisfaction is define heavens and firmaments correctly. I think his theory could perhaps be adjusted to accommodate the problems, and perhaps a mixture of the cloud theory, which we will get to, the canopy theory and Humphreys theory may prove to be correct.
I'm not going to try to resolve this for you completely. I just wanted to use this as an illustration of how it is easy for any of us to ignore Biblical data when it doesn't fit our theory or to ignore the Bible's infallible interpretations of the data. Better to have no theory, than to twist Scripture. I remember shortly after graduating from Prairie Bible Institute working on a sermon, and I knew what I wanted to say, and I worked and worked and worked to make the text fit. And it suddenly dawned on me what I was doing, and I was scared to death of my mishandling of the Scripture. I began to tremble and to realize that I was using Scripture not communicating Scripture. It's easy to do.
Anyway, Humphreys says that the atmosphere is not the first heaven, and I can see how he is forced to this interpretation. He agrees with most interpreters that the three expanses are the three heavens. But he disagrees with what they are.
Please turn to 2Corinthians 12:2. I want you to keep your fingers in Genesis 1, because we will come back here, but let's start with 2 Corinthians 12:2. This is Paul speaking autobiographically about himself during one of the times that he was left as dead by those who stoned him. It appears that God allowed him to get a glimpse of heaven. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. Whatever your take on who this man is, it is clear that what we normally speak of as heaven – where we go when we die, is called the third heaven. Every creationist that I have read agrees with that. It's only the other two that are problems.
Look at Genesis 1:20. Humphreys uses this to try to prove that the atmosphere can't be heaven since the birds of the air are flying against the face of heaven or across the face of heaven, but not in heaven itself. Then God said, "Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens. But let's think about that. Is it not possible that birds fly across the face of two heavens, the atmosphere and space? Vultures have been recorded as flying as high as 25,000 feet. But any bird can look down on atmosphere beneath them and look up at space above them. They can be between the two heavens, or fly across the face of both heavens. But even if Humphreys is correct that this is excluding birds from the stellar heaven and if it is true that the only heaven in view in verse 20 is the stellar heaven, he has not proved that the atmosphere is not the first heaven. He has not proved a thing.
Let me give you five proofs that the first heaven is the atmosphere. Look at Genesis 1:26. then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air… Let's stop there. Notice that phrase "birds of the air." If you had a Hebrew interlinear, you would see that the Hebrew is birds of heaven (MˆyAmDÚvAh Pwøo). Perhaps as a scientist, he doesn't read Hebrew. But this would have been the first clue that though there are no stellar birds (obviously), there are birds of heaven. That would make this heaven air, and that's why its translated air here in the New King James Version. The same is true in verse 28: "birds of the air, and verse 30 bird of the air. (MˆyAmDÚvAh Pwøo). That's literally, "birds of the heavens." That Hebrew phrase occurs 87 times. That's a lot of times for Humphreys to miss. And in the New King James, that phrase is translated as birds of heaven 31 times. Well, they are not the birds of interstellar space. This is clearly a reference to the atmosphere. So that is the first proof: birds fly in a something called a heaven. Secondly, clouds are said to be in heaven (Deut. 4:11). That's atmosphere. Third, rain is said to fall from heaven (Gen. 8:2; Deut. 11:1). Well, that is clearly atmosphere. Fourth, 30 times wind is said to blow in heaven. One passage says that He caused an east wind to blow in heaven (Psalm 78:26). Another passage speaks of the four winds of heaven. There are 30 references to wind in heaven. That's the same Hebrew word, MˆyAmDÚvAh. And there are many other atmospheric conditions being described as in heaven. With such overwhelming evidence that the atmosphere is heaven, I think you can see how it is the theory driving the interpretation, not vice versa. These six day creationists are either ignorant of Hebrew and the English for that matter or they are not being honest with the text. Now again, I appreciate these folks, and I am pointing the finger at myself just as much as at them. But it is critical that we submit to Scripture even to the point of allowing the Bible to challenge our presuppositions.
Anyway, in terms of our search, any theory that denies that the first heaven is the atmosphere at least needs revision. If the atmosphere that birds fly in and winds blow in is the first heaven, there is only one more to account for, and the Scripture is clear on what the remaining heaven is. The second heaven is interstellar space. Look at verses 16-17. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth. And by the way, the word firmament is also used of all three heavens. It simply means expanse. It's the expanse of the atmosphere; the expanse of the stellar heaven and the expanse of the heaven that we go to when we die. In verse 7 you have an atmospheric expanse. In verse 20 you have an interstellar expanse. Ezekiel chapter 1 four times describes God's heavenly throne room as being a firmament or an expanse. So we have demonstrated what the three heavens are, what the three firmaments are, and our theorizing has got to conform to that.
There are some other theories, but let me just deal with one more, to be even handed. The last view is the simplest one, but it is not without its problems either. We need to do more study of day two, and it may end up being another theory that incorporates all of these theoretical ideas where there is water in clouds, in a vapor canopy and above the stars. These are theories and you don't give the same weight to the theories as to the Scriptural material itself. Anyway, the cloud theory is the view of Calvin and many other scholars. The cloud theory would say that the firmament of verses 6-8 is the atmosphere created on day two. They would insist that this couldn't be the second heaven (or space) since the earth could not have been placed anywhere on day one if space had not been made on day one to put it into. Verse 17 shows that every other star and planet had to be placed in the firmament. Space is not nothingness. Space is created. The Firmament is said to be created. The Second heaven, which is the Second firmament or expanse is our bounded universe. So the only firmament left to be created on day two is the atmosphere. So on this theory, when God separates the waters beneath from the waters above, He is simply adding the necessary energy or heat to create evaporation. The hydrologic cycle separates waters from the earth to waters above at least some of the atmosphere. Clouds can be as high as 50,000 feet. So it is not unreasonable to speak of clouds as being above the expanse of the atmosphere and the ocean under the atmosphere. Since we know from the bible that the mountains were not as high after the flood as they were before the flood, the atmospheric conditions needed for storms and to precipitate water could have accommodated much more cloud cover before the flood than after.
Let me deal with the three biggest arguments against this interpretation: First, it is objected that the clouds are in the atmosphere, not above the atmosphere. An easy response would be, "But clouds are above some atmosphere, are they not? In fact the tops of some clouds have been 90,000 feet in the air. That's clearly above the atmospheric heaven. But forget the science of the matter, let's see how Scripture interprets it. The parallelism of Psalm 108:4 requires the interpretation that the clouds mentioned are indeed above the heaven. It says, For Your mercy is great above the heavens, And Your truth reaches to the clouds. I really don't think that is a serious objection.
The second objection is that scientists estimate that if all the water of clouds were precipitated, it would amount to a global flood of 1-2 inches – not very much. Their response could be three-fold. First, that assumes our present topography of the ground, an assumption proved false by Scripture itself. Second, Scripture affirms that even post-flood clouds contain lots of water from a Biblical perspective. For example, Jeremiah says twice that "There is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth." (Jer. 10:13; 51:16). Third, the flood account in chapters 6 and 7 doesn't say that the rain would destroy all life, but that flood waters would. The rain contributed some, but Genesis 7:11 says that the fountains of the great deep were broken up… They contributed hugely to the flood and probably hugely to the rain.
The last major objection to the clouds interpretation is that Genesis 2:5b-6 says, For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. This implies according to the canopy theory advocates that rain was not an ordinary means of watering the earth prior to the flood – something that could be explained by a canopy, but could not be explained if clouds were present. I think that a cloud theory response would be four-fold. First, you can have clouds forming since day two without having rain right away. Other atmospheric conditions are needed first. Second, this was not even day 6 of creation, because Genesis 2:5 says that there was no man yet. Third, chapter 2:6 implies that the hydrologic cycle had already begun. It says, but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. This indicates (they would say) that the process for rain to form was in place: evaporation. During the next two or three days, this evaporation process provided dew on the ground, and was providing clouds in the sky, but that God made the climactic conditions of air movement etc to be such that rain did not come until day six or after when there would be humans to cultivate the ground that would be rained upon. That is a very ordinary exegesis of the passage, and I think it is the most simply and straightforward approach. That's not to say that the other theories may not have major insights that would be helpful. Nor is it to say that another theory that reconciles science with Scripture may not arise that replaces this theory.
The main reason I went through these theories is use day 2 as a caution to our interpretations and handling of the Word. There are tendencies of some people in any of the positions to allow the theory to shoehorn everything into one shoe. That doesn't mean that any of the theories is totally discredited. It means that we ourselves need to be careful that we are driven by the text of Scripture. We are hypocrites if we chasten Day Agers for allowing science to dictate interpretation but end up doing the same thing with our interpretation of the bible. I am convinced that true science will come to rest exactly where the Scripture says that the truth lies. But we shouldn't feel pressured to have to have answers to every objection that the world might bring. Sometimes the smartest thing we can do is to admit that we don't know and that we are praying for wisdom.
I think every one of these models for scientific understanding has fantastic contributions, and we need to read them all. But treat them as models or theories, not as Scriptural absolutes, except at the point where they can prove their implication directly from the Scripture. I'm going to close without really having closure. There are so many neat things that we could say that are positive from this passage. But perhaps I can make the positive applications next week as we try to finish off the chapter.