The identification of the firmament with all of space has been proposed by some modern creationists, but the waters above the heaven remain a problem. Harold Armstrong, former physics professor at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, and editor of the Creation Research Society Quarterly, suggested that when the earth was created, it included a great quantity of water, and so was much larger than at present. Much of this water was then raised, and the firmament consists of the space between these waters elevated a great distance above the earth, and the oceans. One could hardly imagine a more literal approach to the first chapter of Genesis as it is found in present Bibles, or one more difficult to comprehend, from a practical point of view. Armstrong wrote:
The thoughts to be offered here are not at all put forward dogmatically; they are intended more as a starting-point for further consideration and discussion. Many wise and devout men have considered these matters; it would be presumption to suppose that my thoughts are better than their's, but there may be, I hope, something helpful in these remarks... So at this stage there was the earth, still in a formless state, although likely spherical in outline. It likely included much more water than there is now, and was much larger than the present earth... Next God raised a large part of the water, leaving a space between it and the water which remained on the Earth. This space was the firmament-the heavens. In a number of places in Scripture it is said that God stretched out the heavens; I suggest that this is the way in which they were stretched out. Moreover, the root idea behind the Hebrew word which is commonly translated "firmament" seems to be stretching or spreading out. In the spreading out some air was provided for the lower part of the heavens... On the fourth day the heavenly bodies were created. Genesis 1,4 says that they were in the firmament; while the waters which were raised were above the firmament. Thus it would seem, if Genesis is taken at all seriously, the waters above the firmament are not the clouds, nor are they the water vapor normally present in the atmosphere, nor are they a canopy of water in some state no more than a few hundred miles above the surface of the Earth. They are at a great distance, beyond the stars. The water there may not necessarily be in the liquid state now.
As with the other canopy theories, there are immense problems with this interpretation, since the transport of water from the vicinity of the earth to the boundary of the universe or of space seems incredibly inefficient, when God could have just created matter anywhere he wished. The reality of these waters is beyond any possibility of detection, unless the expanding shell of upper waters can be detected in transit - but then, how could light from stars more than a few thousand light years distant still be visible? The remoteness of these upper waters raises the question why any mention of them would be included in the first chapter of Genesis. Then there is the difficulty posed by the vast distance these waters would have to be transported in a single day.
How could the space of the entire universe, along with the earth's atmosphere, have been formed "in the midst of the waters?" It is even more difficult, if that is possible, to comprehend how a layer of water or ice could exist beyond the stars, at the boundaries of the universe, and for what purpose. Paul's statement, "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead," in Romans 1:18-20 seems to indicate the things God created were intended to reveal God's nature and power to mankind, which would include the firmament along with the waters both above and below. The firmament is something which can be seen clearly, and its existence has been made known to men. The firmament, according to Psalm 19:1, continues to rank, along with the heavens, as a means for revealing God's handiwork. It cannot be identified with space or the atmosphere.
Copyright © 1996 by Douglas E. Cox
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