by Stuart Gathman

The Framework View


My daughter in 7th grade at Ad Fontes had a debate on interpretations of Genesis for class.  The teacher divided the class into 3 views: the "24 hour day", the "day/age", and the "framework".  The teacher described the framework view as "figurative and non-chronological", which doesn't do it justice.  Since she was assigned to defend the framework view, I then spent many hours explaining it - to the detriment of other school-work.  While church fathers generally accepted that there were 6000 odd years since Adam, some also pointed out that our time dimension was created along with space dimensions:   Augustine, in "City of God" Chapter 15 and Aquinas in Summa Theologica.   The teacher called the "24 hour" view the "historical" view, but both Augustine and Aquinas specifically reject it.  Augustine in particular wants to know how you propose to define "24 hours" during the first 3 "days" of Genesis:

"And if time was even before the heavenly bodies, not indeed marked by hours, days, months, and years,—for these measures of time’s periods which are commonly and properly called times, did manifestly begin with the motion of the heavenly bodies, and so God said, when He appointed them, “Let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years..."

He also argues that the Angels belong to another world, and hence also not to our timeline.

The sound-bite that clicked with my 7th grader was the one highlighted below.  Genesis is the "making of" our universe.

Understanding the “Framework” view of Creation

Author Time and Story Time

Genesis 1 is the story of how God created our universe.  I don’t mean the pagan idea of creation, where, for instance, Northern Giants fashion the world from fire and ice.  Christian creation is “ex nihilo” - out of nothing, something like how a human author creates a story out of nothing but his or her own mind and experience.   In the framework view, Genesis 1 is not the history of the first few days, or first few billion years, of a universe.  It is God telling us how he came to conceive and plan the universe of which we are part.  

In today’s scientific age, the scenes most people picture when reading Genesis 1 are depictions of dramatic changes in matter and energy:   a quark plasma cooling and expanding until it condenses into matter, and free space electromagnetic radiation, light, bursts forth as a birth cry;  a dark nebula condensing until gravity ignites the nuclear fusion of our sun; a dark planet, covered entirely by water, suddenly illuminated by light from an unseen source.    These are all pictures of things happening in our universe, in its earliest times.

The framework view imagines a very different scene.  Imagine God, anthropomorphized for a moment, seated at a desk, and indulge a little paraphrasing.  In the beginning, God conceived the idea of the heavens and the earth.  At first, the idea was formless and void, and the Spirit of God brooded over it.  Then God said, “I know! Let there be light.”  God saw that this was definitely a good design so far, separated the light from darkness, and called them “day” and “night”.  Then he knocked off for the night.  When he came back to work,  he said, “Hmm, let’s divide the water into waters above and below the air...

And so on.   The focus of our attention is not the events happening in the early universe, but what God is saying, and thinking.  The features of a story are created when the author thinks or speaks them in his  mind - even if they are not yet published.   There may have been an event early in our timeline, where a hot planetary atmosphere cooled and condensed into oceans below and clouds above (whether in a 1 planetary rotation, or a million revolutions.)   But Genesis 1 is about the creative moment when God decided this, not the event itself.   If our universe is the movie, Genesis 1 is the “making of”.  God is the hero, not matter and energy.

The time we experience was created as part of this world.   We picture it as a line (although physics tells us that it is actually a space-time fabric, and events may have a different order to different observers).   But the creative process God is sharing with us did not take place in our timeline (or fabric), because that fabric is part of the universe being created.  As any Sci-fi buff knows, as soon as you introduce time travel, or other worlds, or even General Relativity, words like “when”, “after”, and “before” lose their meaning, because time is not really a line, and time in other realities is not connected with ours.  More relevant words are “where”, “in”, and “outside”.   Genesis 1 takes place outside our universe, in heaven, at God’s desk, or as Augustine once speculated, at the seminar He gave for the Angels.

So what was on the slides at the seminar?

Earth Overview, part I

In the first 3 days, we introduce 3 realms.  

Day 1 - Light and Dark

We will call these “day" and “night".    While seemingly simple at first glance, the mathematics of Light are exceptionally elegant and subtle - a good, solid, and beautiful foundation for the realms to come.

Day 2 - Sea and Sky

Again, water seems simple, but its behavior is astonishingly complex.  It will be  the key resource that enables the rulers planned for part 2.   I get excited every time I work out the dozen odd physical phases of this talented compound.  It is truly a work of beauty.

Day 3 - Oceans and Dry Land

Yep, even the planet has tricks up its sleeve.  The  surface is plastic enough for the continents to move.  This will be especially important later when the rulers of this creation start learning about the structure of atoms.  It will recycle the land they live on every 100000 years or so.  Very slick.  The vegetation is pretty, but is also needed by the rulers in day 6.   It is self reproducing, which lets the entire system be self-maintaining.  

Earth Overview, part II

In the last 3 days, we introduce the rulers of each realm, and finally,  a creature made in the image of God, to rule over all three realms.

Day 4 - The Sun to rule the day, the Moon and the Stars to rule the night.

In additional to providing light for the earth, these heavenly bodies  serve to mark days, seasons, and years.

Day 5 - Fish to rule the Sea, and Birds to rule the Sky

These creatures are not only self reproducing, a powerful feature which will be used yet again in day 6 as well, but they move - dancing and cavorting in splendid style.

Day 6 - Beasts to rule the Dry Land, and Man to rule over them all

The vegetation provides food and oxygen.  The beasts return needed raw materials to the plants.  This completes a self regulating and self maintaining environment for the benefit of our coup de grace.  The beasts self reproduce, and move about and play on the land.  They are truly pleasant to watch.  

And finally, to rule over all the realms, a creature like a beast, but also made in Our image, and able to create worlds of his own within this one.   A fascinating recursion, and very good, but dangerous as well.  But We have in place a glorious, though costly, disaster recovery plan.

Posted 9/21/2010 at 11:32 PM

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