Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Review: Seven Days that Divide the World by John Lennox

Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and ScienceSeven Days that Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science by John C. Lennox addresses that controversial subject of the age of the earth. However, Lennox’s gracious manner goes a long way to avoid stirring the pot of controversy. Instead, Lennox writes five chapters to explain the controversy, apply principles of biblical interpretation, interpret the Genesis days, discuss the origin of humans, and explore the relevance of Genesis. It should be noted that the author emphasizes that this book is not meant to be exhaustive, but a response to the many questions he has received over the years.

In Chapter One: But Does it Move? A Lesson from History, Lennox introduces the controversy by recalling another controversy of the past. He takes a look at the shift in science from a fixed-earth view to the moving-earth view. This is the story of Galileo and the heliocentric view, from which some parallels are drawn to today. Lennox relays this story then asks:
But now we need to face an important question: why do Christians accept this "new" interpretation, and not still insist on a "literal" understanding of the "pillars of the earth"? Why are we not still split up into fixed-earthers and moving-earthers? Is it really because we have all compromised, and made Scripture subservience to science? (163)
In Chapter Two: But Does it Move? A Lesson About Scripture, Lennox makes the point: “The issue at stake in the Galileo controversy is, of course, how the Bible should be interpreted.” (183) And so this second chapter explores principles of biblical interpretation before applying them to the moving earth controversy. Some of these principles: “...the first question to ask is, how does the author who wrote it wish to be understood?” (186) “Next, one should in the first instance be guided by the natural understanding of a passage, sentence, word, or phrase in its context, historically, culturally, and linguistically.” (191) Lennox expands and adds to these, noting that sometimes there can be more than one natural reading for a word, and that in many places a literal understanding will not work. He again notes that for those who shifted their belief to from a fixed-earth, “Did the moving-earthers necessarily compromise the integrity and authority of scripture?” (270)

Lennox spends time discussing the relationship between faith and science (his forte), as well as emphasizing the importance of distinguishing between matters that are central to faith and those which there is freedom to differ upon:
It is Scripture that has the final authority, not our understanding of it. It is a sad spectacle, and one that brings discredit on the Christian message, when those who profess to believe that message belie their profession by fighting amongst themselves or caricaturing others, rather than engaging in respectful discussion through which all sides might just learn something. (342)
The author points out that “The Galileo incident teaches us that we should be humble enough to distinguish between what the Bible says and our interpretations of it.” (376) He notes that we should avoid two extremes: “The first is the danger of tying interpretation of Scripture too closely to the science of the day, as the fixed-earthers did [...] The opposite danger is to ignore science.”

Chapter Three: But is it Old? The Days of Creation is where Lennox works with the principles of biblical interpretation discussed earlier and applies them to Genesis. Then he also explores the current scientific data to see what sort of model arises. But first, Lennox notes that both old-earth and young-earth perspectives go back a long way, so one can’t judge between the views based on who held the view historically. Instead, the reasons for the views must be evaluated. Lennox discusses three main views: the 24-hour view, the day-age view, and the framework view. The 24-hour view sees the days of Genesis as 24-hour days, one earth week, six thousand years ago or so. The day-age view sees the days a a chronological order of periods of time of unspecified length. The framework view sees the days a simply a logical order, not a chronological order.

Lennox begins to unpack Genesis, reading it as if for the first time. He looks at the various meanings of the word “day.” He discusses the various articles used in the Hebrew. He considers the nature of the creation week. “Here we see that, although Scripture could be understood as teaching that the earth is young, it does not have to be interpreted in this way.” (632) Lennox’s own view emerges through the discussion:
However, there is another possibility: that the writer did not intend us to think of the first six days as days of a single earth week, but rather as a sequence of six creation days; that is, days of normal length (with evenings and mornings as the text says) in which God acted to create something new, but days that might well have been separated by long periods of time. (642)
Of course, Lennox unpacks this view much further, giving more reasons and answering common objections. Those points will not be explored in this review. Lennox’s main point is not to advance his own view so much as to say: “The main thrust of my argument so far, then, is that there is a way of understanding Genesis 1 that does not compromise the authority of Scripture and that, at the same time, takes into account our increased knowledge of the universe, as Scripture itself suggests we should (Rom. 1:19-20).” (764)

Chapter Four: Human Beings: A Special Creation? looks at the origin of human beings. As making man was the pinnacle of God’s creation, this issue carries deep significance. Lennox also notes that Genesis indicates a special creation act of God to create man. It is here where the author has some critiques of some other Christian views that would suggest otherwise, such as those held by Denis Alexander. Lennox also tackles that theological objection of death before Adam’s sin. He points out that Paul “says that death passed upon all human beings as a result of Adam’s sin; he does not say that death passed upon all living things.” (1005) He also points out that animal predation also poses a significant problem for the no-death-before-Adam view. More could be said about this chapter -- which raises more questions than it answers -- but again, Lennox’s goal seems to be to expand the mind of the reader a bit: “It is simply false to suggest, as some do, that the only alternative to young-earth creationism is to accept the Darwinian model.” (1115)

Chapter Five: The Message of Genesis 1 is a relatively lengthy chapter compared to the others. Here the author presents a strong (and non-controversial amongst Christians) basis for the biblical worldview. He explores the big picture that is presented about God, the world, and man. God is eternal, creator, personal, a fellowship, distinct from His creation, purposeful, etc. With this full and powerful chapter reflecting on the nature of God and His creation, the author ends with a personal note, emphasizing the spirit that believers should have on these topics: “What, therefore, should our attitude be to others who do not agree with us, whatever view we hold? Surely the old adage has got it more or less right: ‘In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.’”

For the reader who has completed the five chapters that comprise the main part of the book, there are five more appendices waiting to be read. These will not be reviewed here, but here is what these appendices cover. Appendix A: A Brief Background to Genesis: this explores the Hebrew language usage in Genesis, as well as some of the ancient Near Eastern context. Appendix B: The Cosmic Temple View: this looks at one of the views of Genesis that was not explored in the main part of the book. Appendix C: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science: this looks at the overlap between the Bible and science, arguing that they are not separate. Appendix D: Two Accounts of Creation: this chapter addresses the argument that says that the early chapters of Genesis give two different creation accounts. Appendix E: Theistic Evolution and the God of the Gaps: here Lennox presents some criticisms of theistic evolution.

In sum, Seven Days that Divide the World by John Lennox is a good brief look at some of the key issues involved in evaluating views of the age of the earth and our interpretation of Genesis. The book is concise, clear, and charitable. Lennox doesn’t answer all the questions or explore all the details, but he does offer a good set of principles and insights to work with in considering one’s own view. One would do well to learn from Lennox, whatever view the potential reader may currently hold.

All citations taken from the Kindle version.


Lee said...

"John C. Lennox addresses that controversial subject of the age of the earth."

Erm... what controversy? No really… apart from those who wish to believe the bible is inerrant, who is actually disagreeing with the science of today? The science points to one thing, and one thing only, a very old Earth. Wish to ignore the science, fine… but there still isn’t any controversy.

Ian Murray said...

I think there is still a place for these sort of books. Even though fundimentally issues such as the universe's age, or Calvanism vs. Arminianism, etc. are not 'salvation issues' that is no one recieves salvation by believing the earth is old or young, or believing in the 'elect' or 'free will to choose God', etc. these issues are important as they do have an impact on the validity of God's word.

So these issues are issues to 'divide' over as Paul states that he cares about one thing really: (cf. 1st Cor. 15:3-4)Ergo we should all come together and be of one mind and discuss these issues with love and respect but not be defined by them, such as 'Young Earther' 'Old Earther', etc. Rather we all ought to be defined as 'Sinners saved by Jesus'.

However, not having read Lennox's book I don't know where he stands, but I would like to mention (IN LOVE) that if one was to take the phrases:

'The earth is old'
'The earth is young'

As two truth claims and say that science and or Scripture sides with X then one of them as to be wrong. (the law of excluded middle)As for science, scientists say that the earth is old, and others say that is is young. The question is however what story is the data telling us? ANSWER: The data suggests that it is young. - There is no label on it saying 'I am young', but using objectivity, that is the most accurate conclusion that one can arrive at. This is my conclusion based on the evidence I have seen.


I am however still wanting to learn more so if money permits I'll see if I can pick it his book. Thanks Brian for this blog and for letting me comment and thanks Lee for your comment.

Your fellow follower of Jesus,


Ian Murray said...

I just realizied I made a big mistake. I said im my above post:

"So these issues are issues to 'divide' over..."

I made a big error: I meant to have said:

"So these issues are NOT issues to 'divide' over..."

I hope that you could look past my fopa and see what I was trying to say, but I just wanted to put it on record of my mistake.



Lee said...

Hi Ian,

As for science, scientists say that the earth is old, and others say that is is young.

Who are these 'others'... didn't have any in the science department of the university I went to

As I said, the only people who seem to be claiming the Earth is young (less than 100,000 years say) also seem to have rather strong beliefs in about certain religions and claims on certain books.

I wonder why?

ANSWER: The data suggests that it is young

Define young - I assume you are meaning less than 100,000 years?

The evidence, the science - does not point to a young Earth but rather an Earth that is 4.6 billion years old - give or take a few million

This is my conclusion based on the evidence I have seen.



Some videos selling $150? I don't think I will be spending the money thanks

However, I don't need to go far on the website to prove my point... "The bible is the key to the past"


As I said, those who do not accept the science seem to have other beliefs that are driving them.

Thank you for proving my point with a fine example.

Take care


Ian Murray said...

Hello Lee,

Thanks for your reply and I do appologize for taking so long in my reponse. Any ways I didn't want to respond on this blog as this is not what this blog is for, instead I responded as a post on my blog. Below is the link.

I didn't mention your name, as it isn't you that I am addressing but it is your claims that I am addressing. I didn't link back to this blogpost and made no mention of where I had this conversation. I gave you the alias 'Anonymous'. I just felt it appropraite to consentrate on your claims rather than your ID. So I never mentioned your name for your anominity.

Please don't feel that you have to respond to my post. And truth be told I don't want to have a mile long response on my blog; I will delete your response if you do this. This is why I felt it produent to respond to you via a blog post on my blog. Apologetics315 isn't a debating forum and neither is my blog. Therefore, this will be my last response on this blog post.

However if you have a blog and wish to respond to me on your blog as a blog post, then feel free to do so and post the link to your blog as a post on my blog and time and 'life' permitting I'll try to respond and likewise, post the link (my response) to your blog. I don't mind reference links as posts, it is just entire essays-comments I don't want to cluttering up my blog; that is unless they are blog posts and done by me; I am sure you probably would feel the same way.

Moreover, as I said in my initial respond to your post on this blog-post, the age of the earth issue isn't something that I feel is to 'lock horns' over. It is important, and it does need to get talked about, but I don't want to metaphorically speaking 'get into it' with you or anyone else over this. But I hope I did give you the impression here today that I am willing to discuss this issue with you if it is just that 'a conversation'.

Okay well, I thank you for responding to me and encouraging me to respond to you.


Anonymous said...

Sorry about using "Anonymous", I'm not signed up yet.
Book comment:
The assumptive wording here is impressive! The bait-and-switch equivocation fallacy is alive and well! Lennox presents a good idea that is correct then slowly does the bait-and-switch to sell us down the road of biblical compromise.

I accept science quite strongly! Indeed, my own scientific degree and post studies of physics, thermodynamics, astrophysics, molecular genetics, etc. has placed upon me the absolute need to follow the "scientific method" perfectly or perish! Would it not?

However, by looking fully into the claims we find the desperate need for the universe to be billions of years old or their so called "science" perishes. By compromising the scientific and the biblical path we tacitly support the atheistic agenda. Indeed, even the famous atheist Richard Dawkins says Christians who believe the earth is old are "deluded" about their own faith. Let’s be clear, I am not calling my fellow Christians a derogatory word like he does, we need unity here. But, there are lots of well meaning folk that haven't looked carefully enough at the biblical side, the side that has many true scientists that are biblical in their age assessment of our young earth.

Men of faith have laid the foundation for science for us to follow. Let good science speak, not speculation or agenda! There wasn't as much of a need to address the age of the earth in times past but they took the bible seriously and literally in context in the same way creationists do today. Isaac Newton was very strong in his belief the earth was young! Other creationist believing scientists like Galileo, Kepler, Boyle, Bell, Kirby, Faraday, Maxwell, Mendel, Pasteur, Damadian, Hartnett, Humphries, Sanford, etc., would encourage you as well to be fair and open about taking God's word "as written" without trying the push the fad science of our day into it where it doesn't belong.

We have plenty of "hold in your hand" evidence for a young creation in every area, but it doesn't get spoken of in the halls of academia – it would destroy their argument. Why do we get censored if their "science" has nothing to fear? However, would something in your hand really change anything for you? Ultimately, its not about "science," we have all we need, its about the authority of scripture being trumped by speculation wrapped up as "science" and the kidnapping of the very word "science" to mean anything against the plain reading of God's word. It’s about what you want; will you follow God’s word first and then with its supporting science or follow the “science” of the godless?
The equivocation bait-and-switch of "science" versus religion should not exist. Even Lennox here says so, albeit for the wrong reasons. If indeed God is God and he gave us his word, it would follow to be correct scientifically or otherwise - we didn't need atheist fueled agenda to come along centuries later to finally tell us how He did it!

Evolutionary science feeds itself; it has no purpose but to fight for self sustainment. I have never needed it in my scientific endeavors and we didn't need it to put a man on the moon. Please don't be an innocent supplier of food for this idea of an "old" earth. People lose faith and some die over this, it’s not a side issue.

I have thousands of dollars in research material I personally use but there are some places you can go online to get quick answers: try,,, for a supply of articles (10,000+) by various scientists, etc.

We will be held accountable for what we do with His word. And, we have all the science we need, pick it up and let it change your view. Do you have the courage? Our side wont perish if we lose the public debate, their fragile side will - please think about that.

God Bless you guys!

Anonymous said...

looks like Ian is just an arrogant "christian" that wants to pick up a fight with anyone that disagrees with him. No need to be a bully among the Christians!!!

Woody said...

People from the start assume that evolution's theory has been proven true, but the evidence is not that convincing under scrutiny, I suggest to read the book "The Greatest Hoax on Earth?" by PH.D. Jonathan Sarfati it kinda shows a lot of weak points of theory of evolution.

Marvin Torgeson said...

The Bible tells us how old the earth is by a simple reading of the texts linking the Genesis creation with the ancestry lists that give ages. It isnt very hard to understand the earth age when that is done. Why should we seek to ignore that or write it off as though it doesnt take us all right back to where God was with Adam approx 6K years ago?

Ive done plenty of study of Darwin and the science that is laden with Evolutionary theory. The whole idea that God says one thing very clearly in scripture and the Darwinian-propagandists who will say absolutely anything, (and you all know this) anything to dissuade everyone from belief in the scriptures. Its comes at us in so many forms and is ingrained in the minds of so many who have literally educated themselves out of faith in the bible and into faith that the Atheist scientists and those complicit believers with them are accurately describing the earth age when scripture patently says otherwise.

I recognize that PH.D's are supposed to turn my head from belief in the scripture, and I realize that advanced degrees mean that advanced tech-talk is supposed to dislodge me from faith that God created the world in a range of time that is much nearer than the atheists would ever let us believe; but I do believe and I resist those who teach otherwise.

It boils down to carbon-14 or Genesis
It boils down to Dr. So-and-so or Genesis
It boils down to I cant add the ages of Adams descendents and come up with a fairly good approximation of the creation of the earth, no, I must believe my math is wrong and some Atheist non-believer is going to dictate to me (with approval from old-earth apologists) that Carbon-14 and Dr. So-and-so are smarter than you and therefore your faith in what you just read is inaccurately placed.
I mean it should be placed upon Dr. So-and-so who says what you should believe about the bible and what you shouldnt.

Evolution is a myth, pure and simple, those who compromise with old-earth or single descendant evolutionary positions are plainly and simply un-biblical.

Its easy to hide behind educational degrees, when your proposing a compromise and I believe this is exactly the kind of un-biblical apologetics that stops the gospel from taking root. If you believe God was a liar in his account of the creation, whereby its clouded in a mist of uncertainty and question, its no wonder when it comes to the gospel those same ones cannot preach it without catering to Atheist approvals.

Apologetics is not a place to learn cowardice, how about acting like we do have the truth and hold on to it.

Brian Auten said...


The Bible tells us how old the earth is by a simple reading of the texts linking the Genesis creation with the ancestry lists that give ages.

This is quite disputable. The apologetics study bible notes:
"Although the years are reliable, this genealogy cannot be used to reconstruct the age of the earth. Genesis does not present genealogies for establishing absolute chronology (see 1 Kg 6:1). Also, Genesis 5does not possess a complete list. Genesis 5 and 11 exhibit 10-name genealogies that consist of stereotypical patterns. The two genealogies are also linear, meaning that they include only one descendant per generation (segmented genealogies have more; seeGn 10:1–32). Since genealogies may telescope generations (see above), and since Genesis 5 is highly stylized, it is likely an “open” (selective) genealogy that spans many generations."

I recognize that PH.D's are supposed to turn my head from belief in the scripture, and I realize that advanced degrees mean that advanced tech-talk is supposed to dislodge me from faith that God created the world in a range of time that is much nearer than the atheists would ever let us believe; but I do believe and I resist those who teach otherwise.

Whether someone has a PhD or not is not the issue here. The issue is whether or not we have good reasons to believe that the earth is a particular age or not. Lennox is simply arguing that scripture is not dogmatic about it, and neither should we be dogmatic. It is not a primary issue.

It boils down to carbon-14 or Genesis
It boils down to Dr. So-and-so or Genesis
It boils down …

This seems simplistic and mistaken to me. Isn't our goal simply to determine what the best way to interpret the biblical data and reconcile it with empirical data. Lennox is arguing that the Biblical data is not dogmatic. Rather, it is somewhat ambiguous. And it is not a sin to look to the "book of nature" to help resolve interpretive issues.

Evolution is a myth, pure and simple, those who compromise with old-earth or single descendant evolutionary positions are plainly and simply un-biblical.

Evolution on a macro-scale may be false. But it should not be conflated with an old-earth view. An old-earth position does not equal a belief in evolution.

Its easy to hide behind educational degrees, when your proposing a compromise and I believe this is exactly the kind of un-biblical apologetics that stops the gospel from taking root.

No one is "hiding" behind educational degrees. Nor is Lennox proposing compromise. For those who cry "compromise" whenever they hear a view that doesn't hold to a young-earth, I think there's a real misunderstanding of the position. One would do well to actual read Lennox's book and critique what he is saying, rather than straw men.

Marvin Torgeson said...

Thank you Brian from allowing my first comment, I truly thought it would never see the light of day.

John Lennox has endeared himself to me from the various debates I've watched on you tube. The man is outstanding. I will happily take the time to obtain his book and review it.

My comment was directed in general to OEC not specifically at John Lennox.

Finally, as to genealogies, it doesn't matter if you add another two thousand years of genealogies, the earth will never arrive at an old-earth-age.

While the knowledge of the age of the earth is not a requirement for salvation, belief that the scriptures are accurately depicting the events that occurred or are foretold do have the weight of effecting salvation.

Listen to the what I am hearing from the OEC point of view.. ( please correct me if I'm wrong)
You cant take the bible as accurate....
You cant believe the genealogies to connect back to Adam unless we find the gaps...
You cant expect God to just do something in 24 hrs....
You cant put the weight of genuine faith upon such a simplistic view and rightly understand the scriptures....

The reason why I should not believe the bible that way is because....

Carbon 14 ( the most inaccurate and ridiculous measuring system ever devised) says your wrong...
Atheist scientists who push the Darwin myth say you're wrong....
Liberal theology that discourages anyone from placing that kind of trust in the scriptures says you're wrong...

So Brian, I am happy to read more on OEC, but all that I've read from Hugh Ross and various others that promote my opinion...dislodge the believer from faith in the scriptures and place it upon the testimony of un-inspired men.
Don't get me wrong I'm not some flat-earth believer or some non-sense like that, I am unwilling to sacrifice faith in scripture testimony and offer it to 'other' men.

Thank you from posting an inflammatory comment that probably should never have seen the light of day and allow me to clarify.

Anonymous said...

While not having read the book, yet, I listened to an interview of the author on it, and felt that I finally had an understanding that there could be a confluence of two understandings; not a comprise, but a clearer understanding of the word of God.
It is all good and well to say that by reading the bible we can say that the world is only six thousand years old, but can we? We interpret what read through more than just the words on the page. We understand by how we've been taught. I believe this book addresses that disconnect we all feel at times between our reading of the word, and apparent discrepancies that would arise if we take at face value scientific discoveries.

Before listening to Mr. Lennox's interview I felt conflicted. Either take Genesis as an exhaustive report on how God created the world, that chapter's 1,2, and 3 were what happened and ONLY what happened, or, I could listen to the scientific community, see compelling evidence of the origins of the universe, forget Genisis, stumble over my faith, lose faith in a god, much less our God, give up that anything meant anything, and face a nihilistic nightmare.

Jesus said,"You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free."

Ahhh, I finally, felt free. Free from the restriction of a contiguous seven days, free from godless science, free to believe that I didn't fully understand scripture, and it was possible to both believe in God as the creator of all existence, not just the universe, and believe in the mechanisms behind His creation.

Believing that the world is ancient isn't the same as saying that the bible is merely a nice collection of Jewish folklore.

The Bible is the true word of God, but we are not God, let us concede that we do not fully understand it, and thank the Father that we will have eternity to ask Him to fully explain Himself.

Remember, the apostles frequently didn't understand what Jesus meant by what He said. Consider that.
They spoke the same language, had the same cultural references, knew Him intimately in a way we simply can't at this time, and they still had to frequently ask for explanations. Jesus' words certainly would have been inerrant, but that didn't make them transparently understandable.
"Seeing they do not see, hearing they do not hear.."
If the apostle's needed explanation despite directly hearing it from Jesus' mouth, how much more would we?
To understand how the plagues came upon Egypt should never negate our belief that God sent them. If the world is older than six thousand years old, does that mean God didn't create it? If Darwinian theories hold true, does that mean God isn't responsible for the creation of man. As Paul says, "May it never be". If we don't understand everything correctly, does that mean we don't understand anything? If we are true servants of God, yes, that is what it means. That is why it is called Faith.

Anonymous said...

Did not read the book, but the review, and it seems that the author is attempting to allow for an old earth creationism. The best work I have ever read on this is by Hugh Ross "Creation and Time." He is a PhD. par-excellance (astro-physics) and evangelist/apologist. His book is well worth the read. One question should settle the issue for all; "how many days after Adam was created, walked with God in the cool of the evening, named all the animals, dwelt in the garden, was it that God said,'it is not good that man should be alone. I will make for him a help meet,' and finally created a woman from Adam's rib?" Answer, all occurred on the 6th "day," indicating it could not have been a 24 hour day!

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