How Does Science Help Us Understand the Genesis 1 Creation Sequence?

Of all the questions I have wrestled with over the years, this was the very first one, and the biggest. In fact, this goes all the way back to elementary school, call it age nine, and continued for about fifteen more years. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that at such a young age, my question was actually a statement something like this: “The order of creation in Genesis 1 doesn’t make sense.”

Allow me to lay out the days of creation in a somewhat simplified form, like this:

  • Day 1: Creation of light; separation of light from darkness into day and night
  • Day 2: Separation of “waters:” the atmosphere (“sky,” including clouds) from the water-covered Earth
  • Day 3: Separation of dry land from seas; creation of vegetation
  • Day 4: Creation of sun, moon, and stars
  • Day 5: Creation of sea animals and birds
  • Day 6: Creation of land animals and people

Perhaps you have had the same thought that I had even as a young child: everything seems to be in order until Day 4. In other words, how could the sun, moon, and stars (Day 4) be created after light (Day 1) and after vegetation (Day 3)? One teacher (I went to Christian schools) brought to my attention something I found interesting: if you look at the creation days, you can divide them into three pairs, each of which closely relates two days: Days 1 and 4; Days 2 and 5; Days 3 and 6. However, it didn’t answer my question about sequence.

I became a Christian at age 20, but my big question was still unanswered. Then at age 24, I came across a book called The Fourth Day. The author was a Christian astronomy professor, so I eagerly began to devour it. However, I was soon disappointed because the author essentially dismissed Genesis 1-11 as nothing more than figurative language which was not meant to be taken as history! This meant he also dismissed the flood, along with the Biblical account of the origin of different languages. For him, Biblical history began with God’s call of Abraham. Thankfully, there was a footnote in which he dismissively mentioned a book called Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth by Robert C. Newman and Herman J. Eckelmann.

I knew as soon as I began reading this book that I was going to find my answer. So, rather than eagerly devour it, I carefully read it. In the second part of their book, Newman and Eckelmann take us through the first four creation days of Genesis 1 verse by verse, giving a scientific explanation for what was happening on each day. In order to understand this, they suggest adopting the viewpoint of standing on the surface of the early Earth and watching God create. This made sense to me based on the limited scientific knowledge of people at the time Genesis was written.

If you are not interested in the scientific details that absolutely blew me away, you can skip to the next paragraph. However, I will keep this brief and avoid scientific jargon as much as possible. Early in its history, Earth had a very thick cloud cover–basically a greenhouse effect which raised temperatures and caused more water to vaporize. When God created vegetation (Day 3), photosynthesis replaced a significant portion of the carbon dioxide present at that time with oxygen. This lowered the temperature, reduced the cloud cover, and prepared the atmosphere for animals and man (Days 5 and 6).

So, what happened on Day 4? For the first time, the sun, moon, and stars became visible from the Earth’s surface as the cloud cover thinned.  In other words, the sun, moon, and stars had been created prior to Day 4 (which also explains the light on Day 1).  Genesis One gives an account of what an Earth-bound observer would have seen as creation unfolded. 

It is difficult to describe the praise to the Lord that erupted in my heart when I realized my question had been answered; it was quite literally an “Oh, My God” moment. My young faith became immensely strengthened at this revelation after fifteen years of wondering and searching. There is a saying that perspective is everything; in answering this question, that is 100% true!

5 thoughts on “How Does Science Help Us Understand the Genesis 1 Creation Sequence?

    1. Yes, Annie; God has given us the ability to investigate His world using the sciences, and they help illuminate some Bible passages, especially Genesis 1, in a powerful, awe-inspiring way. To the Creator of everything be the glory!

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  1. Thanks for sharing, Keith. I have similar question growing up. It is very interesting what your teacher told you how we can see the world creation in 3 pairs. Thanks for the explanation of Day 4.
    I am interested to check out the book you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Linda, you’re exactly the kind of person that I wrote this post for; I knew that there had to be other people out there who had the same question. And yes, even though the three pairs didn’t answer my question, I also think it’s very interesting.

      It looks like there is a newer edition of Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth, with the two authors I mentioned plus one more. If you like, I can lend you my copy (the original edition).

      Like

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