Today, let's take a look at Genesis 1. If you click the link there, it will draw up the whole text (or it should, if the old RefTagger code still works). Otherwise, grab your Bible or click here for the text in both the NIV and NASB.
Genesis 1:1 is likely among the five most famous Bible verses, It's also among the five most strife-causing verses in the Bible. Why?
It's the foundation for everything else to come. Really. Whether you're a day-ager, frameworker, literalist, or atheistic evolutionist, guess what? You have formed an opinion on Genesis 1:1. For the atheist, it's a complete falsehood. For the theist, it's critical in terms of timing and causation.
It's actually the one thing that is agreed among many differing views on the rest of Genesis 1: God did it.
If it's true that God created the heavens and the earth, then there are certain implications for that creation. The Creator will have done so for a reason. He will have done so with certain purposes and structures that continue that affect all of it.
Of course, if God didn't create it, then there are all sorts of questions regarding whether or not the universe carries an underlying logic or not. That's a deep line for someone else's blog. For a host of reasons, I accept and believe the statement that God created the heavens, the earth—all that we see and know.
What, then, do we do with the rest of Genesis 1? That's where the controversy within Bible-believers arises. The rest of Genesis 1 presents an orderly creation account as God creates first light, then the rest of the physical universe, followed by living things and finishing with humanity.
There's a few possible understandings of the rest of this passage. These are:
1. Literal. This is the simplest reading of the text: evening, morning, first day, sixth day, all lead to the conclusion that we're dealing with a literal time frame of 144 hours, followed by 24 hours of rest. This would seem the most likely in light of such passages as the Sabbath Commandment that treats the time frame as literal.
I like this concept. It's what I am most familiar with and it takes the text at its word. Moreover, it's in keeping with general high-views of Scripture and God: He did not put things in the Bible that are not true.
2. Symbolic. Every other interpretation of this text becomes symbolic: the days are symbols, stand-ins for something else. It could be that the days are stand-ins for eons or that the structure is a literary framework for understanding God's general work.
These views take the position that the text should be understand in view of spiritual meaning against it being a literal, historical viewpoint. The argument being that the passage does not fit the general revelation of the universe: 6 literal days, followed by not enough literal years in following chapters, does not account for what we see.
Personally, I see more weight in the first view point than the second one, but cannot count this as a fellowship-breaker. Neither is it the reason we homeschool our kids—that they not be taught evolution/Big Bang Theory ideas. The science book we're in now with them is from a completely atheistic viewpoint and they read the whole thing, not a white-out version that erases the controversy.
I think it does matter, more perhaps for theologians than for others, but it's not a question of salvation, either. That comes from believing whether or not Jesus Christ is the Savior you need for your sins.
If I can highlight parts of this chapter as "more important," which is always a danger: all of Scripture is important, so it's difficult to make that claim, I would highlight Genesis 1:1, Genesis 1:26-27, and Genesis 1:31. The summary is this:
I. God created all of it. It's His universe.
II. God created men and women as part of that universe. Humanity was created in the image of God and so has value, purpose, and ability. That applies to all humanity: regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender. Man and woman are in the image of God.
III. God created everything such that it was "very good." Not bad, not half-bad. Very good. That which God does is good. Seeking God's direction and His ways? Also good.
That's my summary of Genesis 1.