“God Was Not ‘Within Time’ When He Began Creation?”
The vast majority of people in the western world today believe the Earth and the Universe are billions of years old. This teaching is based on dating methods that are founded on assumptions that have not been proven and are riddled with error. In spite of these assumptions and errors, it has been common for many Bible believers to adopt this ancient Earth belief (or at least tolerate it) and attempt to find places in the biblical text to insert the possibility of billions of years. The two most common attempts at this effort are known as the Day-Age Theory and the Gap Theory. The Day-Age Theory asserts that the days of Creation were not literal 24-hour days, but were long, extended periods of millions or billions of years. The Gap Theory suggests that the days are regular 24-hour periods, but a large gap of billions of years existed in the biblical account of Creation between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:3. At Apologetics Press, we have dealt extensively with these two theories and shown them to be incorrect.1
Periodically, however, we run across a twist in one of these two theories which requires attention. One such idea is that there must be a gap between Genesis 1:1 and the rest of the creation because, since God created time, He could not have been “in time” when He initially brought the world into existence. According to this idea, it must be true that “when God created the heavens and the Earth, God did so before time.” And we are then told that it must be false that “when God created the heavens and the Earth, God did so during time.” In argument form the allegation looks like this:
Premise 1: If God is not within time at the initial point of time’s creation, then He cannot be within the first day’s 24-hour period.
Premise 2: God is not within time at the initial point of time’s creation (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 57:15).
Conclusion: Therefore, He cannot be within the first day’s 24-hour period.
The concluding argument then states:
1. “If God cannot be within the first day’s twenty-four-hour period at the point of time’s initial creation, then Exodus 20:11 excludes Genesis 1:1 in its reference to six days.
2. God cannot be within the first day’s twenty-four-hour period at the point of time’s initial creation (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 57:15; Genesis 1:1).
3. Then, Exodus 20:11 excludes Genesis 1:1 in its reference to six days.”
Admittedly, this all seems fairly complicated, but to summarize the argument, if God is outside of time when He begins creating, then Exodus 20:11, which is talking about time, cannot apply to what God created while outside of time.
While the argument seems complicated, the answer to it is straightforward. Time begins at the exact point at which physical matter and space come into existence. The initial creative event is a simultaneous occurrence of both matter and time. All time starts with the first atom of matter that is created since time (as it relates to the physical Universe) is connected to the Universe. The simple response to the above argument is to recognize that, though the author of the argument focuses on the “location” of God in relation to time, Genesis 1:1 and Exodus 20:11 are not addressing how God relates to events before the creation of the physical Universe. These passages address the passing of time that is connected to the physical Universe. God existed before time, is currently outside of time, and is from everlasting to everlasting, as Psalm 90:2 states. Thus, all of God’s activities before the creation of the physical world were “before” time, but those activities would have no bearing on the time that has elapsed in the material Universe. They would not add billions of years to the age of the Universe. Time is an aspect of the physical creation and cannot be separated from it.
It is interesting that the proponent of the argument admitted this very idea, when he stated: “When did time begin? The correct answer is that it began at the point at which the first thing came into existence. Since God did not come into existence, the point at which the first thing came into existence was the creation of the heavens and the Earth…. Simultaneously, time arrived at the same point at which the heavens and the Earth arrived.” If that is true, then anything that God did before creating the heavens and the Earth would be irrelevant to how long the Earth and Universe have been in existence. In other words, God’s pre-creation activity does not add years to the age of the Earth, since time began at the moment of Creation and not before.
So, we must look at the premise: “If God is not within time at the initial point of time’s creation, then He cannot be within the first day’s twenty-four-hour period.” The premise is incorrectly worded because “where” God is “in time” is unimportant in relation to the age of the Earth. God was not within the first day before Creation because neither time nor the first day had started. When did it start? When the first atom was created. This would mean that whatever God was doing “before” the creation of matter had nothing to do with the time that passed in the physical world.
We then move to the premise that states: “If God cannot be within the first day’s twenty-four-hour period at the point of time’s initial creation, then Exodus 20:11 excludes Genesis 1:1 in its reference to six days.” The second half of this premise does not follow from the first half (the idea that God is not within time), since the point at which matter was created is the point at which time began. So, why would Exodus 20:11 exclude Genesis 1:1 if Genesis 1:1 includes the creation of matter and we know that all matter in the Universe must be within time? Since we know that “all matter must be within time’s initial creation,” then we know that “Exodus 20:11 must include Genesis 1:1 in its reference to six days.”
So, if time begins the instant matter is created, and Exodus 20:11 states that in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them; and if matter would be included in “all that is in them”; then we must conclude that Exodus 20:11 applies to Genesis 1:1 as it does to the rest of the Creation account. The attempt to force (or at least accommodate) a gap between Genesis 1:1 and the six days of Creation by claiming that God is outside of time when He begins His creation fails. The clock of the Universe began when the first atom came into existence, and it ran and continues to run continuously from that point. When did God start creating the heavens, the Earth, and the Seas? At “the beginning.” The beginning of what? Matter and time. How long does the Bible say it took Him to complete this creation? Six days, no more, no less.
1 Justin Rogers (2015), “Is the Gap Theory Linguistically Viable?”, https://apologeticspress.org/is-the-gap-theory-linguistically-viable/; Eric Lyons (2014), “Creation and the Age of the Earth,” https://apologeticspress.org/creation-and-the-age-of-the-earth-500/; Dave Miller (2004), “The Implications of Rejecting the Literal Days of Genesis 1,” https://apologeticspress.org/the-implications-of-rejecting-the-literal-days-of-genesis-1-1200/; Wayne Jackson (1984), “That Loaded Questionnaire,” https://apologeticspress.org/that-loaded-questionnaire/.
2 All quotations regarding this idea are taken from Mac Deaver (2020), “Could God Create (Ex Nihilo) on the First Day?” Sufficient Evidence, Fall, pp. 129-138, emp. added.
3 Jeff Miller (2012), “Simultaneous Causation,” Apologetics Press, https://apologeticspress.org/simultaneous-causation-687/.
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