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!

9 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.

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    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).

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  2. Dear Brother Keith, Thank you so much for answering this. Honestly, I had just read over these passages of scripture without really probing like you did. Amazing find Brother. Thank you for sharing your study. It’s amazing I find the word study actually means to meditate on something one finds to be perplexing and through deep research one digs until they are at peace with an answer. This is what you’ve done and we get to benefit from it. I should very much like to post your blogs to my study about the Gap. I will also read your Evolution Blog. Thanks again. God bless you.

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  3. To respond to the titles’ question, NO, science does not help us to understand Genesis One. I propose a simple biblical solution to this supposed cosmological dilemma (light before the sun), one that will debunk all Earth-origin cosmological models, Christian and otherwise. There is only one resolution: the one which science cannot investigate nor even deal with. Faith, as expressed in Genesis, God spoke, and the stars, sun, moon, and all other heavenly bodies which populate the Universe (which includes the light shining from each object), were brought into existence instantaneously on the fourth day. “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth … For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast (Psalm 33: 6, 9). When God declared this, He did not need 24 hours to accomplish His bidding – it happened immediately. The text does not imply it took an entire 24 hours (or four days) to accomplish His purpose. And even if it did, as with all of Jesus’s miracles, each day of creation was miraculous; entirely beyond the purview, scope, and bounds of scientific study.

    I believe many Christians have fallen into the trap of attempting to explain something that cannot be explained by natural means. It’s akin to using science to solve the mystery, of how did Jesus turn water into wine or His resurrection from the dead. Evolutionists have goaded Christian cosmologists into answering something no one is qualified to give. When Christians do not have what’s considered an adequate explanation of a biblical event, I have heard mocking comments such as, “That’s your default answer, God did it.” As if they are somehow superior, with their empirical rationales and scientific explanations. Despite such skepticism, Evolutionism cleaves to its own set of miracles, starting with the big bang which they believe brought everything into existence.

    I say to scientists, Christian astronomy professors, and those who believe God’s word, why not answer truthfully? The creation of stars and their light was a miracle; thus, we have no means to investigate nor even suggest an answer to the supposed “problem” of starlight. Thus, the book “Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth” by Robert C. Newman and Herman J. Eckelmann, offers no real answers. This is not to imply we shouldn’t study and observe the heavens; we simply need to understand the fundamental limits of science and the miraculous events it cannot examine or deal with. Therefore, no real scientific models can be put forth on Earth’s origins nor starlight; they would only be unverifiable hypotheses or pure guesses. The only Christian model dealing with origins, cannot be studied or examined by science; it’s found in the first two chapters of Genesis, God spoke, and it came into existence. The order is not “scientific,” nor was it meant to be. Again, science cannot study miracles!

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    1. While I was searching for answers to various questions I had long ago, I came across a book called God Did It, But How? While that book didn’t answer my questions, it did point out that there are different ways to understand how God created everything.

      Here’s a very brief summary of what science tells us about some big questions. First, the evidence for the Big Bang is very strong, and here’s the best part: it means that the universe had a definite starting point, which means that Someone (or something?) had to exist prior to it; science has no good answers to that question, but only wild speculations about multiverses.

      Second, science has no answer to the origin of life; in fact, it is mathematically impossible for life to come into existence “accidentally.” And even if it did, evolution is a theory full of holes, and that is putting it mildly. For example, what the fossil record shows is that fully-formed species came into being suddenly, without transitional forms. Some have assumed that an ancient universe and earth imply evolution, which is simply not true. In fact, it has been shown mathematically that 4.5 billion years is nowhere near long enough for the proliferation of life forms that we see today.

      Finally, the universe is finely tuned, meaning that it is specifically designed for intelligent life to exist. In other words, if certain features of the universe were slightly different, life could not exist.

      All of these findings give strong evidence for God’s existence, and in fact, there are scientists who have “converted” from atheism to agnosticism because of the evidence, and some have converted to Christianity. I realize that for you, these findings may not be important, but they have been for others, and they have greatly strengthened my own faith.

      You referred to Psalm 33: 6 and 9; taken literally, you are right that 24 hours (X 6) were not necessary for the Lord to create everything; He could have done it instantaneously. I also freely concede that it’s certainly possible that the universe and earth are “young,” not ancient.

      As a lifelong friend of mine (now a retired pastor) would say, this is not a salvation issue. I’m looking forward to finding out the answer to this question in heaven!

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