Monday, December 24, 2007

Light upon the Earth

A recent post at The Prosblogion has got me rethinking six-day literalism. Prima facie there's a problem with, for example, the creation of Daylight (in Gen.1.iii; called "Day" in Gen.1.v) before the creation of the Sun (in Gen.1.xvi) "to give light upon the earth" (Gen.1.xvii); but then, there are similar problems with omniscience and omnipotence, and they just remind us to be more careful with our accounts of God (than we need to be with tales of, for example, Santa). Dinosaur bones, for example, need not be the work of Satan, even given six-day literalism; because Creation is not that unlike Envatment, and to run Actuality (according to natural laws chosen by God) from the Big Bang (for a few billion years of our time) would surely, for God, be no easier (or harder, although it might be worse morally, in view of the suffering animals) than running it from the first incarnated people (possibly six thousand years ago).
......Anyway, "day" obviously gets its meaning (for us, now) from the revolution of the Earth (or by extension, of any planet) around the Sun (or any star), much as "water" now means H2O; but the Bible is supposed (ex hypothesis) to be the word of God (a transcendent Creator) via the medium of ancient Hebrew (not even Latin), so why should even its literal (non-analogical) meanings be so obvious? And divine creation (of a world like this) could, for example, be like God selecting propositions (in his divine language) so as to restrict a range of possible worlds until only the one is left (for the incarnation of people like us), in which case Genesis could record (quite literally) that process. For example, wanting people to have something like water, various worlds (with various physics) containing water (in some divinely descriptivistic sense) may have been considered; and similarly God may have begun with the idea of a phenomenal daylight, and only later finalised the physics so that a star was its source.
......Now, there is the further complication that the divine acts of creation themselves took evenings and mornings (or days); but such acts may well involve two basic components (creation is a great mystery, but we must have some thoughts about it), for example (i) the actualization or making (maybe testing them with avatars or angels) of the currently desirable possible worlds (maybe as phenomenologically definite but physically indefinite), naturally following (ii) the selection or design of the next restriction. And we are (ex hypothesis) made in God's image (as people), and we do have two corresponding states of being, i.e. waking (for doing) following sleeping (for dreaming). So (were this, or something like this, the correct interpretation), would such a use of "morning" and "evening" (to refer to such a division of labour) in Genesis be literal or metaphorical? Surely it would be no more metaphorical than, for example, our saying that we enlighten a living room by switching on its light as we enter it; rather less, I would guess, given the necessarily transcendental (and primary) nature of nature's creation.


Brandon said...

Your thought about the evening and morning reminded me of Augustine's speculation that the mornings and the evenings of the various days are stages by which God enlightened angelic minds.

Enigman said...

Hi Brandon, many thanks for that connexion (of which I was ignorant:-)