One of the arguments of young earth creationists, in defence of young earth creationism vs old earth creationism, is that YEC stays faithful to the “plain meaning of scripture”. They say, any other variety of creationism is a compromise that leads inevitably to loss of faith. I admire the desire to stay faithful to God’s pure word. For that reason, I was once attracted to Young Earth in the first place. However, now I think that the “plain meaning of scripture” is actually something other than what YEC thinks.
How can I speculate that the “plain meaning” of Genesis 1 isn’t what we might think? For one thing, a careful reading of the 6-day creation account reveals this curious fact: the earth itself is excluded from the 6 days of creation. Rather, it is presented as “without form and void” prior to the 6 days. So, when was the earth created, and why was it without form and void?
Historically, I wonder what the Christian stance about geocentricism was like at that time. Now, we can look back with a perspective that was not available at the time. Perhaps geocentricists saw science as threatening the plain meaning of the Bible then? Whereas now, we’d perhaps say that geocentricism was a misreading of the Bible, and we Christians can believe that the earth goes around the sun without considering it a compromise to challenges from science and atheism.
Historically, the “plain meaning” of the Bible has often not been plain at all, until God revealed it. For the early New Testament church, the calling of the Gentiles, which in hindsight was plain in scripture, was a real shock to them (Acts 10:45). For the Jews, the identity of Jesus Christ as the Messiah was an insult to their expectations of what the Messiah should be, although in hindsight Jesus’ role as Passover lamb for our salvation was manifestly important and prophesied through the Law, the Prophets and the Writings right from the beginning (Luke 24:44).
Today, I wonder just what God really means by Genesis 1. One day, the Bible being true, God will be shown to be right all along, and the Bible true. As for humans... we aren’t always granted to know the full truth. Even the faithful man Daniel had the task of recording a message in the Bible which he himself didn’t understand (Daniel 12:8-9).