The Gap theory—or Ruin/Reconstruction theory—arose with the dawn of modern science as an attempt to reconcile the geological age of the cosmos with the Genesis account of creation. Traceable to nineteenth-century Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers and the twentieth-century Scofield Reference Bible, the Gap theory suggests there was a vast geological age of ruin between the first two verses of Genesis. Despite persistent popularity, three concerns continue to haunt the theory.
First, this geological gap seems wholly driven by scientific discovery rather than scriptural discernment. Million-year-old fossils discovered by paleontologists are supposed to be the remains of plants and animals destroyed in a flood that happened before Adam lived. Popularly referred to as Lucifer’s flood, this ruin of the earth was God’s judgment of the devil and demons. As the argument goes, the destruction happened between the events reported in Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, and this destruction was followed by a seven-day reconstruction period that is recounted beginning with Genesis 1:3.
Furthermore, this gap seems wholly made up. There is no mention of a gap in either the immediate context or anywhere else in Scripture. As such, it is a makeshift improvisation designed to resolve a perceived conflict between science and Scripture: science seems to demonstrate t hat physical evil preceded Adam, and Scripture documents that physical and personal evils stem from Adam’s fall (Genesis 3:17–18; Romans 5:12–21; 8:19–21; 1 Corinthians 15:20–26; see the entries “Is Animal Suffering a Consequence of Adam’s Sin?” on page 124 and “Could Carnivores and Catastrophes Have Existed Prior to the Fall?” on page 127).
Finally, there is the matter of a text taken out of context and turning into a pretext (false premise). A classic example is found in the notes of the Scofield Reference Bible. The initial pretext is that create and made have distinctively different meanings—create (bara) meaning “to make out of nothing” and made (‘asah) meaning “to remake or reconstruct something previously created.” Thus, the notion arose that the earth was created in 1:1, made void waste and empty by judgment between 1:1 and 1:2, and reconstructed thereafter. Scripture, however, uses the words create and made interchangeably. The single example of Genesis 1:26–27 is sufficient evidence: here God says, “Let us make (‘asah) man in our image. . . . So God created (bara) man in his own image.”
A little digging uncovers a host of similar pretexts used to support a geological gap that is ad hoc. Suffice it to say, the Bible does not provide a chronology of creation. More important to God’s people, however, Scripture’s creation account does provide an order of creation, a hierarchy, culminating in the crowning jewel of creation—humankind.
For further study, see A. F. Johnson, “Gap Theory” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter E. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 439.