Most Christians agree, at least on paper, that the Bible is the authority on all topics on which it speaks. However, unfortunately, not every Christian actually means it when they say they believe the Bible is authoritative, particularly when it comes to opinions on Genesis. Christians who want to somehow fit some of the ideas of atheism into the Scripture have often attempted to reinterpret Genesis to incorporate aspects of the atheistic worldview. One such attempt is the Gap Theory. This idea is still popular in some circles as an explanation for the contradictions between the atheistic and Biblical worldview. Does this explanation hold any water? Let’s figure it out.
The Gap Theory was the first idea that attempted to fit millions of years into the Bible. The main proponent was a pastor named Thomas Chalmers. Chalmers was a well-known member of the Scottish church, who taught at the University of Edinborough for many years. His training was in mathematics, not primarily theology, however, which may have led to his poor interpretation of Genesis.
Chalmer’s Gap Theory, also known as a ruin-reconstruction theory, differs strongly from theistic evolution. Most Gap Theorists reject any form of biological evolution or even cosmological evolution. Further, the Gap Theory rejects the theistic evolution interpretation of the days of Genesis as being long periods of time. Instead, the Gap Theory posits that there were millions of years between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, in which there was a complete world populated with animals, plants, and pre-historic humans. However, due to the fall of Lucifer and the rebelliousness of man, God wiped out this pre-Adamic civilization and started afresh by creating the modern world which we live in today. This necessitates the Flood being a local event rather than a global one as described in Genesis 6-7.
There are, of course, lots of problems with this position. The biggest one is that impugns the honesty and nature of God. In Genesis 1:31 it says. “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Notice that God calls His creation “very good”. Titus 1:2 says “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;”. In other words, God can’t lie. Therefore when He says that what He created was “very good” it is the truth. This leads to the question of does God consider millions of years of death, pain and suffering as “very good”?
That question is critical. If God views death as very good (spoiler, He doesn’t) then we all should be atheists because a God that cruel should not be worshipped. Further, such a God does not match with how the Bible portrays God. 1 John 4:16 tells us “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” In other words, part of God’s nature is love. Trying to reconcile a God of love with calling millions of years of death and disease “very good” makes no sense.
As if this problem was not enough, the Gap Theory ignores is the fact that the Exodus 20:8-11 makes a pre-Adamic creation impossible. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” Notice that God made heaven and earth in the same set of six days that He made everything else, completely ruling out the possibility of pre-Adamic millions of years.
Further, without digging into the complexities of Hebrew grammar, the Hebrew of Genesis 1: 1-2 simply does not permit millions of years. The words used, and the manner in which they are used, make reading Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 as sequential with no break the most natural reading. Millions of years have to be forced into the text through eisegesis.
In short, Scripture does not support any form of a gap theory. Any attempt to shoehorn millions of years into the Bible is foredoomed to failure, simply because a natural, exegetical reading of the text of Scripture leaves no room for the long ages. Further, it seems utterly illogical that Christians should attempt to take an idea founded by atheists who were open about opposition to the Bible and attempt to make it fit within a Biblical worldview. Who is the authority….God and His Word, or human atheists?