The Gap Theory is one of the unusual teachings Peter Ruckman emphasizes, therefore it merits at least a brief review at Ruckmanism.org.
What is the Gap Theory? In his excellent book Unformed and Unfilled, Weston Fields provides a brief definition worth noting:
Not all gap theorists agree on the details of the theory, but the one unifying principle of all gap theorists is that Genesis 1:2 (1:1 in the case of the dependent clause view) records the ruin of a once-perfect earth, and a lengthy time-gap between the original creation and the restoration recorded in Genesis 1:3 to the end of the creation narrative. Other details of the theory are mere embellishments and are neither essential to the theory, nor universally held by all gap theorists. (p. 7)
The booklet The Gap Theory by Kent Hovind and Stephen Lawwell describes the origin of the Gap Theory as follows on p. 5:
Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), a notable Scottish theologian and first moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, is credited with being the first proponent of the gap theory. His proposal of the theory was first recorded in 1814 in one of his lectures at Edinburgh University. Prior to 1814, few theologians considered Genesis 1 as describing anything other than a normal 24-hour, six-day week.
In the Foreword to Weston Fields' book Unformed and Unfilled, John Whitcomb, Jr. has a similar account of the origin of the Gap Theory, and also ascribes the apparent motives:
It was in 1814 that Dr. Thomas Chalmers of Edinburg University first proposed what has since become known as the Gap Theory of Genesis 1:2. By this interpretation of the Bible, Dr. Chalmers felt that he could make room for the vast expanse of time which the geologists of his day were demanding, and at the same time maintain a literal interpretation of the creation account. His views were further elaborated by George H. Pember (Earth's Earliest Ages) in 1876, and enormously popularized by a footnote in the Scofield Reference Bible (first edition, 1917). (p. ix)
Ruckman's views on the Gap Theory are summarized as follows in his own words:
However, Genesis 1:1 refers to a date much earlier, maybe millions of years. Nobody knows the exact time of the original creation of the world in verse 1. Genesis 1:2 is not the original creation, because 2 Peter 3:5-6 tells us something happened to the original creation. Genesis 1:2 says something terrible happened, a great calamity of some kind: "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." This is undoubtedly connected with the events of Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, but the event is described even more clearly in 2 Peter 3, and the modern body of apostate fundamentalists who write apologetic literature about the flood have all rejected 2 Peter 3 as referring to Genesis 1:2., which, of course, it does. So, the modern apostate fundamentalist is just as heretical as the modern evolutionist, at least where rejection of the King James text is concerned. This earth was immersed in water in Genesis 1:2, according to 2 Peter 3. (Ruckman, Peter. Theological Studies, Book 16. Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1988, p. 6)
Ruckman's interpretation of 2 Peter chapter 3 here ignores the context of the previous chapter, especially 2 Peter 2:5: "And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;" Ruckman's interpretation seems further unlikely when it is considered that 2 Peter 3:6 (which he lists as telling us what happened with the "original creation") gives the overflowing of water as the cause of the world perishing, which is more naturally interpreted as Noah's flood: "Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:"
If it could be said that Genesis 1:2 raises a question, Exodus 20:11 is typical of a passage in the Bible that answers it: "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." Ruckman takes a novel approach in brushing off the truths revealed in Ex. 20:11 by declaring it non-doctrinal! Observe:
Note (!!) that Exodus 20:11 is not a doctrinal statement on the history of creation. If it was, it would be false. There are three heavens after Genesis 1:2. (Bible Believers' Bulletin. August 2002, p. 6)
It is not uncommon for many Ruckmanites to enthusiastically follow Ruckman in his views on the Gap Theory. They quite frequently refer to their view as the "Gap Fact."
Ruckman has used some questionable tactics when attempting to deny what many gap theorists believe. In an article by the title The Mythological “Gap Theory” (Bible Believers' Bulletin. August, 2002) Ruckman makes the following argument:
Page 2: The writer assumes that every Christian who believes in the first chapter of Genesis, AS IT STANDS (see below), thinks that “billions of years passed between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.”
They believe nothing of the kind. If you want the time it would be about 2,000 years, making an even 7,000 years between the first creation (2 Pet. 3) and the second creation (Rev. 21)… (p. 1)
First of all, it seems like a straw man argument. Ruckman does not quote much of the context. However, our copy of the booklet he is refuting is unfortunately dated 2006–four years after Ruckman's article–so it could have been revised. Secondly, when Ruckman makes the allegation about how the authors supposedly portray "every Christian," Ruckman does not quote directly. Our copy of the booklet gives a much different impression on that very page:
Those curious will also find that there is a tremendous variation in the accepted duration of the gap. Some proponents of the gap theory feel it only lasted a few hundred years but most believe it lasted millions, if not billions, of years. (Hovind, Kent & Lawwell, Stephen. The Gap Theory. Pensacola, FL: Creation Science Evangelism. 2006, p. 2)
That Ruckman would give only "about 2,000" as the number of years of the supposed gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:3 in defending the Gap Theory is rather interesting, in light of the other estimates he has given in years past. Notice:
In the Bible account, it could have been here 1,994,000 years (in Gen 1:1) before God recreated it in 6 evening [sic] and mornings, but re-create it He did… (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Genesis. Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1980, p. 54)
The earth could have been here a good 4,000,000 years before God “recreated it,” in seven evenings and mornings. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Genesis. Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1980, p. 4)
However, Genesis 1:1 refers to a date much earlier, maybe millions of years. (Ruckman, Peter. Theological Studies, Book 16. Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1988, p. 6)
It should be no surprise that Ruckman has a sensational view of the mysterious "sons of God" of Genesis 6, and based purely on speculation places them first in the original earth that was supposed to have existed before Genesis 1:3:
Although men were not present before the creation of Adam and Eve, something like men must have been present, for beings called the “sons of God” are mentioned in connection with the Pre-Adamic earth (Job 38:1-8). (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Genesis. Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1980, p. 5)
A careful student will see that the commission given to Adam is quite similar to the one given to Noah (Gen. 9:1-4). “Replenish” indicates some kind of a previous population… (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Genesis. Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1980, p. 44)
It is also not a surprise that Ruckman would resort to his crudeness and dogmatism regarding imposing his belief in the Gap Theory on others. Below are a few examples:
Only an apostate Biblical illiterate could fail to see it. [The Gap Theory] We have the “winners,” don’t we, baby?! (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers' Bulletin. August, 2002, p. 4)
[Those who disagree with the Gap Theory] …slobbering fanaticism and cultic mentality. (Ruckman, Peter. 22 Years of the Bible Believer’s Bulletin Vol. 1 “The AV Holy Bible” p. 132)
…the modern body of apostate fundamentalists who write apologetic literature about the flood have all rejected 2 Peter 3 as referring to Genesis 1:2., which, of course, it does. So, the modern apostate fundamentalist is just as heretical as the modern evolutionist, at least where rejection of the King James text is concerned. (Ruckman, Peter. Theological Studies, Book 16. Pensacola, FL: Bible Baptist Bookstore, 1988, p. 6)
Considering how vocal Ruckman is in treating those who disagree with him on the Gap Theory, notice what he admits in an apparent unguarded moment about the shaky biblical foundation for the theory (underlining is our emphasis):
The "gap theory" is the teaching that something took place between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 that is not explained there but can be inferred from other places in the Scriptures such as Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.
(Ruckman, Peter. The Books of the General Epistles, Vol. 1. Pensacola, FL: BB Bookstore, 2005, p. 461)
The gappers will often try to say that they are interpreting Gen. 1:1-3 in strict chronological order, indicating that there was an original chaotic creation in verse one that preceded the final creation starting in verse three. But a considerable amount of Scripture is not given in strict chronological order. It is generally understood and accepted that the Bible starts off Genesis 1:1 with an introductory statement, not uncommon in other books of the Bible.
Our view is that there is simply too much speculation imposed on the few verses used to support the Gap Theory, to the point that it basically becomes an argument from silence, with a lot of reading between the lines. It is driven not by a desire to interpret the Bible exegetically, but rather in accordance with the conclusions of evolutionary-driven scientists regarding the supposed age of the earth.
This article was not meant to be a comprehensive refutation of the Gap Theory. There is an abundance of good material available on the topic, some of which we recommend below:
Hovind, Kent & Lawwell, Stephen. The Gap Theory. Pensacola, FL: Creation Science Evangelism
Lawwell, Stephen. The Gap Theory: Lucifer's Flood or Church Compromise? Chapel Hill, TN: Echoes of Eden
Fields, Weston. Unformed and Unfilled: A Critique of the Gap Theory. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.
Thompson, Bert. Popular Compromises of Creation—The Gap Theory http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=575
Morris, Henry M. Why the Gap Theory Won't Work. http://www.icr.org/article/why-gap-theory-wont-work/