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Response to debate question: “How did God create the earth from water?”

Juan responds to the claim Dr. Hector Avalos made the earth from water.  Does the Bible say that?
Responding to Dr. Hector Avalos
During our recent debate, Dr. Avalos raised several direct questions in addition to numerous attacks on the Bible, Genesis, the flood, Jesus, Christians, Christian Pastors, Creation Scientists, etc,… Because of the time constraints in a debate, and because many of his attacks were clearly outside the scope of the debate (Genesis 1-3), I was only able to answer some of the questions raised so over the next few weeks, I will be responding to each and every question / attack more thoroughly.
In his opening statements, Dr. Avalos asked me three specific questions and I want to tackle them in order. The first question was, “How did God create the earth from water?
His argument was based on Genesis 1:2, “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” [1]  When I responded that a clear reading of the Genesis 1:1 establishes the order and makes it clear that God did not create from water he accused me of not believing my own Bible, because I was not in agreement with his interpretation of 2 Peter 3:5, “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,” which he interprets to mean that God created the world from water.  So let’s deal with it!
What does Genesis 1:1 say regarding the creation of the universe? “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It clearly DOES NOT say that God created either the heavens or the earth from water. In Genesis 1:2 God reveals to us what the initial creation looked like—it was not suitable for life. It had not been prepared yet for life to inhabit it.  So what does Genesis 1:2 say about water?  It says that the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Does this mean God created the Earth from water? Of course not! It doesn’t even say that the whole planet was covered with water. We have to read on to what God did on day three of creation to realize that water did indeed cover the entire surface of the Earth, Gen 1:9-10, “9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.”[2]
Thus, a clear reading of Genesis 1 establishes quite literally that God did not create the earth from water. Instead, God created the heavens and the earth which contained water, lots of water. Everyone knows that water is foundational to life. As a matter of fact, what is it that scientists look for in other planets and stars to determine if there is or ever was life? Water, of course.
Now let us focus on the 2 Peter 3:5 passage. In order to understand the passage, we must consider the context, much to the chagrin of Dr. Avalos, who of his own admission, doesn’t seem to think context is important.[3] The verse in question says, “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,” so let’s break it down. The verse begins with a main clause—“For this they willfully forget.” Who is “they”? I find it interesting that Peter is speaking about scoffers.
In a line of argumentation that begins in verses 1 & 2, with a stern and much needed reminder no to neglect the Word of God both Old and New Testaments, Peter exhorts believers to be careful of scoffers. Why is this important or relevant to the discussion at hand? Because verses 3-4 warn us that in the end times there will be many scoffers (mockers) who will deny the authority of God’s Word and question the veracity of it, particularly regarding Jesus’ second coming, but also in other areas. That leads us to the verse we are considering, and answers the question of who “they” are.  This clause also reveals to us the strategy that “they” (the scoffers) use to undermine the authority of God’s Word, they “willfully forget” what the Word of God clearly says. I love the way Anderson summarizes Peter’s argument here,
“Scoffers are deceivers, because they deliberately forget what the Bible teaches. This is an act of the will; they refuse to remember the truth and therefore they speak falsely. These are people who know all about the biblical account of creation as recorded in Genesis 1, yet their whole philosophy, lifestyle and beliefs are based on a complete denial of these things.[4] [emphasis added]
We need to consider another key word in the main clause—“this” in order to understand the passage. What is Peter referring to with the word “this”?  The answer lies in the rest of the verse which appears as a subordinate clause—“ that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,” and which continues into verse 6 with yet another subordinate clause, “by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.”
What does this passage teach? Does it teach that God created the world from water? Absolutely not!  First, it teaches what the scoffers have willfully forgotten, namely, that God spoke the world into existence and by his word destroyed it with a flood.  Second, it teaches that water, which is so prevalent and indispensable for life, was also used by God as a tool of judgment upon a world full of wickedness that had rebelled against the Creator. Finally, and most relevant to our discussion, it explains that the land we live on came out of the water and was surrounded by water. Obviously, the phrase, “standing out of water and in the water” does not say or even imply a creation from water.  It is clearly making a connection with Genesis 1:9-10 where we are told by God that the dry land appeared from underneath the water, when these were collected into the seas. This harmonizes perfectly with numerous other passages that express the same idea.
The psalmists were particularly fond of describing the preeminence of water in the natural world, after all, the beauty and wonder of the natural world was a very common theme in Hebrew poetry.
Consider Psalm 104
5 You who laid the foundations of the earth,
So that it should not be moved forever,
6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
The waters stood above the mountains.
7 At Your rebuke they fled;
At the voice of Your thunder they hastened away.
They went up over the mountains;
They went down into the valleys,
To the place which You founded for them.
9 You have set a boundary that they may not pass over,
That they may not return to cover the earth.
[emphasis added]
Notice the amazing poetic expression of the way God uncovered the land that was under the waters (Genesis 1:9-10)
Notice that it doesn’t say the earth was made of water, but rather covered with water.’
Other examples of this theme include Psalm 24:1-2 and  Psalm 136:6.
I suppose Dr. Avalos would respond to these arguments with all types of allusions to Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic but we must be careful with this. Remember the English translations we use are done by entire teams of translators, experts in the biblical languages and trustworthy in their rendering of the original text.
In conclusion, when we let the entire counsel of God’s Word be the primary interpreter of itself, we see a complete harmony of content thereof.  Regarding our question, the Word of God is clear—God created water, but God did not create the Earth from water. Therefore, the question itself is invalid, because it is asking us to explain something that never happened.
[1] For consistency, all bible references will be NKJV.
[2] I have purposely skipped day two of creation where God also deals with water, because that is directly tied to the issue of the “firmament” which I will address in a separate article.
[3] I will deal with Dr. Avalos’ claim that “context is a theological construct” and thus it is inadmissible and irrelevant to the discussion, in another article. However, I find it perplexing, to say the least, that someone with Dr. Avalos’ linguistics background would find context to be irrelevant, when EVERYONE knows that the only way to correctly ascertain the meaning of words is by considering the context in which they are found.
[4] Anderson, C. (2007). Opening up 2 Peter (p. 94). Leominster: Day One Publications.
 
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