Genesis 1 is arguably the most divisive chapter of the Bible amid modern-day Christians, and remains one of the largest obstacles in advancing arguments for the Christian faith to non-believers.
Christians generally take one of three broad approaches to this chapter: a strict, face-value, literal interpretation of the English translation of the passage; a rationalization for how this passage can be “true” in some sense while remaining compliant to what science appears to say about the origins and development of the universe; or a dismissal of the passage as largely the product of the mythology of a pre-scientific age. Each of these three approaches comes with a challenge to the Christian faith.
Anyone who adopts the first approach invites ridicule and broad dismissal of their beliefs as a “faith versus science” dilemma, where anything else they believe is subject to skepticism because they appear to embrace ideas that are wildly counter to indisputable facts.
Anyone who adopts the second approach invites the criticism of making ad hoc arguments in order to have their faith and scientific facts while compromising both; in the same sense as someone who tries to make “scientific” arguments for why astrology really works.
If one embraces the third view, a non-believer can simply make the argument that if any portion of the Bible is admittedly false, the entire book becomes highly questionable, and nothing in the Christian belief system can be trusted.
Worse, it becomes immediately apparent to non-believers that even most Christians can’t agree with what to do with Genesis 1.
The savvy non-Christian knows that, if they want to bring an evangelically-minded Christian to frustration, all they need do is to bring up the subject of Creation versus Evolution. In many cases the apologetic discussion with a non-believer will never advance beyond this point. The conversation becomes eternally bogged down in a “science versus faith” debate with the result that the Gospel is never even touched upon.
External Apologetics, that is Apologetics aimed toward those outside the Christian faith, should always have the goal of evangelism in mind. There is no sense in even discussing ones faith with a non-believer if one has no intention of persuading them that the Christian worldview is the correct worldview.
To this end, there are only two facts that are essential to defend: that mankind is corrupt and incapable of perfection, and that Jesus was resurrected. Not only do these two facts encompass the Law and the Gospel, the core tenants of salvation, but from these two facts one can extrapolate all of the essential doctrines of the Christian worldview.
Ideally, the subject of Genesis 1 need never be mentioned in an evangelical discussion of Christianity. However, if broached, a Christian Apologist can rightly say that the actual origin of the Universe does not effect the truth or falsity of these two ideas.
Apologetically, there is only one concept that need be rescued from Genesis 1, and that is verse 1. As the argument goes: that which begins to exist must have a cause; the Universe began to exist, therefore it has a cause.
The meaning and purpose of Genesis 1 should remain a strictly in-house debate for those who have already accepted the truth of the Gospel message. It is a passage that neither proves nor discredits the Christian position in itself.