My blog posts for the summer are going to document our journey through the beginning of Genesis.
I want to focus our attention on the most foundational issues. We will be addressing things that may not be popular or politically correct, but are according to the revealed Word of God.
Since September 11th, anyone who utters the words “ground zero” knows that is the place where the twin towers of the World Trade Center stood before terrorists brought them down. From a theological perspective, however, I would have to say that “ground zero” is Genesis 1:1. It is the very foundation of our faith and yet it is being pounded by heavy artillery constantly by atheistic evolutionists. It is my belief that if that foundation is ever totally destroyed, our Christian faith will have nothing left to stand on.
That is why it is so critical for us to go to the very beginning of God’s revelation to us and hear what He has to say. It doesn’t really matter what men may say, what counts is what God himself declares.
I heard a story one time about a group of engineers, geologists, chemists, and other scientists who came together to answer the question: “Where did the universe come from?”They spent hours and hours compiling information, checking it and re-checking it. Finally they loaded all their data into a super computer and waited for the results.The magic moment came when they had fed all their knowledge, theories, hypotheses, and research into the computer. The question was entered, “Where did the universe come from?” They all gathered around, and there was (kind of) a holy hush in the laboratory. They hit “enter” and immediately lights began to flash. They heard the whirling of relays opening and closing, and finally a typed message appeared on the screen: “SEE GENESIS 1:1”
We are going to be focusing a lot on the issue of creation vs. evolution. It is impossible, in our day and time, to examine the first few chapters of Genesis without addressing that issue.
Clyde Francisco writes, “Many people are disturbed by the apparent conflict between Genesis and science. Genesis says that the earth was created in six days while modern science claims that it is billions of years old. Genesis speaks of man as a special creation of God by many scientists contend that he has developed from lower forms of life.” There is a real war in our day over these differences – that’s why we can’t just skip over this debate lightly. We have to deal with this head on.
In fact, we are not even going to be getting into the actual text of Genesis 1 for several weeks because I want to lay out all the pertinent issues surrounding this very relevant debate. I have 17 issues that I want to address before we move into the first chapter of Genesis.
The book of Genesis, is (of course) a book of beginnings. That’s what the word “Genesis” means. It is the name that was given to this first book of the Bible because in the Hebrew language the very first word means “in beginning.”
Genesis is usually divided into two major divisions. The first division has to do with primitive history (in chs. 1-11) and the second division is patriarchal history (in chs. 12-50). (We won’t get anywhere close to that second division)
But let’s begin with an examination of the issues, and I’ll just start with what I am calling
1. THE ISSUE OF INITIATION
Before I even get into this debate, I want to give you a few disclaimers. This is a very broad topic, and we won’t be able to get through everything in one post.
If there is something you are concerned about, that we don’t I don’t address here, wait a few weeks and see if we address it. I’m going to try to get to everything I believe is pertinent to this debate.
A second thing I want to say initially is that I do not claim to be a scientist. I am not speaking as an expert in the realm of science. In fact, I am not really even going to argue from the perspective of science. I am a Bible teacher, and I am going to come from the perspective of explaining the text of Scripture.
But, now, having said that, I may not be a scientist, but I do know how to read. Science is not totally irrelevant to the text of Genesis 1-2, although the pre-imminence goes to the Scripture rather than the scientific opinions of men.
We are going to look at some scientific arguments, and creation scientists have done an outstanding job in the past 50 years or so, demonstrating the fact that true science is not at odds with the plain, literal reading of Genesis 1-2.
My contention is that evolution is not based on good science, but is a faith assertion on the part of those who want to accommodate an atheistic understanding of the origin of the world. (We’ll see this as we go along).
By the way, it is interesting (and alarming) that the revival of what Henry Morris calls “literal biblical creationism” has been led mostly by scientists and not theologians. What does that say to pastors and seminary professors around the world? It has been the arguments of Christian scientists that have brought many pastors and theologians back to the place of embracing a literal understanding of the Genesis 1-2.
A a second issue is:
2. THE ISSUE OF IMPORTANCE
Why should we spend time on this? Why is any of this important? There are many in the church today who would like to relegate the issue of origins to the status of a minor doctrine. How important is it?
My belief is that it is anything but a minor doctrine. My belief is that the Christian faith begins right here. The gospel doesn’t begin with John 3:16, it begins with Gen. 1:1.
There are 66 books in the Bible, and Genesis is the foundation upon which all the rest are built. There are 1189 chapters in the Bible, and Genesis chapter one is the foundation for them all.
There are 23,214 verses in the OT alone. Genesis 1:1 is the foundation for all of them. I heard it put this way one time, “Genesis is the front door to the rest of the Bible. Genesis 1 is the knob that turns the door, but Genesis 1:1 is the key that unlocks the doorknob.”
And if you are a student out there this morning, you know how critical this is, because unless you are in a distinctively Christian school, you are being bombarded constantly with naturalistic evolution. And what I will be saying to you is going to be completely contrary to the kind of indoctrination you are receiving.
But the bottom line, folks, is “if we can’t trust the beginning of the Bible, then why do we think we can trust any of the rest of it?” If we can’t trust the revelation of God in regard to His creation of the world, then why would we think we can trust it in regard to our salvation?
If God is not the creator, then maybe He’s not the redeemer either. If we’re not going to take a literal interpretation of Gen. 1:1, why should we take a literal interpretation of John 3:16? And the truth of the matter is, that for many in the church today, we have ended up with a form of Christianity that has lost its absolutes in the very first two chapters of Genesis.
If we can’t have complete confidence in divine revelation as to our origins, how can we have confidence in regard to our destiny? This is not some minor doctrine. You can’t say, “We’re just going to skip over this debate and move on.” It is too essential to our faith. I’m not saying that if you try to accommodate evolutionary theory, you can’t be a Christian, but what I am saying is that where you stand on this has an enormous impact on your interpretation of the Scripture and what you believe about God.
It really does matter what you believe about this. This is a major doctrine because it will impact every aspect of your understanding of theology. It is foundationally and critically important for all Christian doctrine. Don’t fool yourself in thinking it doesn’t. This is the fountainhead of divine revelation. Please don’t minimize the importance of this.
But this (kind of) brings us to a third issue, which is:
3. THE ISSUE OF INFLUENCE
In Coming to Grips with Genesis, the editors write, “No matter where you are in the world, you will find that evolution and deep time are taught as undisputed fact in the schools (at least the universities, if not also in primary and secondary schools(, in natural history museums, in science programs on TV, and through national parks, the media, and Hollywood.”
There is much strong influence, if not pressure, to adopt naturalistic evolution as your world view. Most often what you will see from this influence is raw assertion, demagoguery, intimidation and ridicule.
John MacArthur writes (in the forward of that book), “But question the dogma that all life evolved from a single spontaneously generated cell, point out that the universe is full of evidence for intelligent design, or demand the kind of proof for evolutionary origins that would ordinarily pass scientific muster, and the ardent evolutionist will simply dismiss you as a heretic or a bigot of the worst stripe.”
Naturalistic evolutionists want us to believe that their theory is unquestioned fact, and that anyone who would believe otherwise is crazy. Atheists like Richard Dawkins want everyone to think that it is a foregone conclusion that evolution is a fact.
And there is all this intellectual snobbery that has served to put pressure on all who would dare to question their theory.
Folks, let me put this as forcefully as I know how: “Evolution is a theory. It is not fact. It has never been proven and it never will be proved because it does not happen. Evolution is a faith assertion. It is a naturalistic, anti-theistic worldview. It is a pre-supposition someone chooses to hold in spite of much evidence to the contrary. It is as much a religion as any theistic worldview.
And you and I who hold to the truth of Scripture should not be intimidated by all the media pressure and the influence exerted by intellectual elites.
As MacArthur writes, “We do not need a new interpretation of Genesis every time some geologist or astronomer declares that the universe must be older than he previously thought. Nor should we imagine that legitimate science poses any threat to the truth of Scripture. Above all, we must not seek ways to circumvent the clear meaning of God’s Word, compromise our trust in the Creator, or continually yield ground to every new theory of falsely so-called science.”
This is exactly what Paul was warning Timothy of in 1 Tim. 6:20-21. He said, “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ — which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.”
The KJV has, “science falsely so called.” Folks, that’s what naturalistic evolutionary theory is – it is false science. True science has proven time and time again to be completely in harmony of what is revealed in Scripture.
Now, we might expect that from atheists and purely secular non-believers, But what becomes a much bigger concern is when Evangelical Christians begin accommodating this anti-theistic worldview in their understanding of the Genesis account. So that leads us fourthly to:
4. THE ISSUE OF INTEGRATION
The sad reality is that many even in the church have lost the courage and will to defend what the Bible teaches about creation. A large number of evangelical pastors and teachers have succumbed to the pressure to insert long ages of time in the creation account.
Most have bought into the false premise that we can somehow harmonize the first few chapters of Genesis with modern naturalistic evolutionary theory without doing any harm to the Christian faith. And what is really interesting is that most of the Evangelical teachers and seminary professors embrace a literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic everywhere else in Scripture except in the first part of Genesis. Theological liberals have been embracing evolution for years, but now you have otherwise staunch evangelicals doing this. They believe the Bible is inerrant, and authoritative, and absolutely trustworthy, but they sell out in the account of creation.
The pressure to conform to this purely secular worldview has led to a surprising willingness on the part of far too many evangelicals to embrace a very non-evangelical approach to interpreting the early chapters of Genesis. So they come up with creative ways of inserting millions or billions of years in between the verses of Genesis one.
Now you have “theistic evolutionists,” who believe that God just (kind of) got it all started and then evolution took over. And they would say that the “days” of the creation account are not literal, 24-hour days. They’re ages of time.
Some want to justify that by pointing to 2 Peter 3:8, “…with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” I don’t know how they from a thousand to billions of years, but the point they are trying to make is that these are not to be seen as literal 24-hour days.
For quite some time now, even orthodox, conservative, evangelical seminaries and Bible Colleges have been teaching their students to accommodate evolutionary theory. So you have those who have adopted the “gap theory” or the “day/age theory” in order to work the assumptions of evolution into their view of creation. Or you have so-called “progressive creationists,” who essentially hold the same view, but say that God inserts Himself into the process a little bit more as things go along.
Or they adopt what is known as the “framework hypothesis,” which is a way of allegorizing or spiritualizing the text of Genesis 1-2. This view holds that the creation account is just some sort of metaphorical “framework” designed to depict God’s creative power in a way that makes sense to our finite minds.
This view holds that the “days” of Genesis 1 are not even distinct eras of time, but they are overlapping stages in the evolutionary process. They are “symbolic expressions” but have nothing to do with actual time.
On the other hand, this view, like all the others, requires billions of years for the process of evolution to take place. Like all of these views, the assertion is that the language and details of Genesis 1-2 are not important, but that the only thing that matters is to see the Providence of God in guiding the evolutionary process.
Dr. Morris writes, “But these don’t work biblically and are unnecessary scientifically.” He says, “I realize that the underlying motive in these compromise views has been to defend the gospel and win people to Christ in spite of the predominance of secularism in our society… Seminaries do not usually include much science in their curricula, but the general feeling has been that since ‘science’ has proved evolution and the geological ages to have occurred, these concepts must be incorporated somehow in our theologies, no matter how much we have to distort or ‘spiritualize’ Genesis to do so.” He states, “I realize that the scientific establishment is still strongly committed to evolutionism, even though there are now literally thousands of what they call ‘young-earth creationists’ who are fully credentialed scientists.”
He explains, “They repeat the mantra, ‘Creation is religion, evolution is science’ over and over whenever the question comes up (and) all this seems to intimidate most theologians to such an extent that true literal biblical creationism has long been taught almost as rarely in Christian seminaries as it has in state universities.”
In The Battle for the Beginning, John MacArthur points to a survey that was taken by one of America’s leading evangelical accrediting associations. It was discovered that out of more than a hundred Christian institutions, only about 5 or 6 held firmly to a literal six-day creation. All the others were open to various theories of “theistic evolution” designed to accommodate long ages of evolutionary process.
Folks, the problem is that none of these theories of theistic evolution comply with the straightforward text of Genesis. They are all accommodations to an anti-theistic worldview. They are tantamount to the beliefs held by naturalistic evolutionists. And the tragedy is, none of this is necessary. Science has proven nothing that contradicts a literal, six-day creation. In fact, true science has given much credence to that.
We’ve just caved in to the naturalists far too long, and it’s time to stop. Many of the book written by creation scientists all but obliterate the evolutionist’s arguments, like Philip Johnson’s book Darwin On Trial.
We don’t have to give in on this, nothing requires evolution, and the sad part is, the secular humanists are even using the fact that many Christian leaders have compromised on this as fuel to further their cause to discredit biblical Christianity. Why are we giving in on this?
Now, let me throw a quick issue in here but I’m not going to spend much time on this one. A fifth element of the debate is:
5. THE ISSUE OF INSINCERITY
The only thing I want to say here is that the naturalists tend to accuse the young earthers of being divisive. This ends up being part of the intimidation to silence them. The argument is basically that those who hold to a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2 are the polemical culprits and this is bringing division in the church.
My answer to that is “truth always divides.” Any time you have truth, you also have those who deny the truth, and the result is that people are not in agreement. That is true in regard to any biblical doctrine, and this issue is no different. Those who hold to a literal, historical, grammatical interpretation of Genesis 1-2 must stick to their commitment to that hermeneutic regardless of how many disagree with it.
6. THE ISSUE OF INTEGRITY
At this point we need to talk about the authorship and authority of Genesis. Who wrote it, and can we count on its accuracy? The answer is, Moses wrote it and it can absolutely be trusted. Some scholars want to point out the fact that Genesis doesn’t contain any claim to have been written by Moses, and yet the NT clearly says that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, of which this is the first book.
In the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, John Sailhamer writes, “As part of the Pentateuch, the composer of Genesis likely would be the same as that of the Pentateuch as a whole.”And despite Wellhausen’s “documentary hypothesis,” which claims that there were as many as four “editors,” there is no solid evidence that this book was written by anyone other than Moses himself.
The NT bears witness to Moses as the author of the five “books of the law.” In John 1:17 we read, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”In John 7:19, Jesus asked, “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” In v. 23 He asks, “If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath that the Law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath?”
Jesus obviously saw Moses as the author of the books of the Law. That would have been seen by the Jews as the entire Pentateuch. Even in the OT we see confirmation of that. Joshua 8:31 says, “just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the sons of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses…”
We saw in Jesus’ encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus that He said, “…beginning with Moses (that is, the 5 books of the Pentateuch) and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”
In John 5:46, Jesus said, “…if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me.”
So there’s no reason at all to doubt Mosaic authorship, and because of our understanding of the inspiration of the Scripture, we know that this book can be absolutely trusted, because it is divinely inspired just like all the rest of Scripture.
As Paul wrote in 2 Tim. 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed…” It is literally breathed out by God. It is divinely inspired. And as the Apostle Peter wrote, “…no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
So we know the book of Genesis is divinely inspired, and is absolutely trustworthy, and Moses is its human author but the Spirit of God is its source.
7. THE ISSUE OF INTERPRETATION
Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is what the Word of God declares, and ultimately there are only two options: either you believe that is true or you don’t. That’s not an over-simplification.
And if you believe that is true, that God created the heavens and the earth, then the only record you have of that event is found here in these first two chapters of Genesis. God is the only eye-witness of that. None of us were there. We either have to take what God has revealed to us as truth or we need to be honest enough to admit that we do not believe God.
If you believe that this world came about through some sort of random chance or some process of evolution over millions and billions of years, then you are saying that you do not believe what God has said.
If we allow the plain reading of the text of Genesis to speak, we have to reject evolution and embrace divine creation.
And if you are convinced that you need to (somehow) integrate evolution into your belief that God created the world, then the only way you can do that is to spiritualize the text or make it out as some kind of allegory or some kind of poetic framework, and that is exactly what liberal theologians have done, and all those who consider themselves some stripe of theistic evolutionist. But there is nothing in the text of Genesis 1-2 that gives any indication at all that it should be taken in any other way than literally. It’s not myth. It’s not legend. It’s not fantasy. It’s not allegory. It’s actual history.
In these first two chapters of Genesis God tells us precisely how He did it. We have absolutely no reason to question that. It tells us that God created the world in six literal days. You can’t deny this is what the text says. The Hebrew word “yom” means “day,” and there are six of them.
In the Tyndale OT Commentary on Genesis, Derek Kidner writes, “With the study of Genesis on its own terms, that is, as a living whole, not a body to be dissected, the impression becomes inescapable that its characters are people of flesh and blood, it events actual, and the book itself a unity.”
After pointing to certain passages in the NT as “fixed points to the interpreter” (such as Acts 17:26, and Rom. 5:12-19), he states “These…exclude the idea of myth…and assure us that we are reading of actual, pivotal events.” Sailhamer explains, “Except for the scattered poetic sections in the Book of Genesis, the overall literary form of the book is historical narrative, which is the representation of past events for the purpose of instruction.” And you might say, “Well, these first two chapters of Genesis are exactly that – they are poetic metaphors.” But Sailhamer makes it clear this is not the case. He writes, “Genesis 1:1-2:4a is clearly recognizable as a unit of historical narrative.” He points out that “one of the more obvious elements is the repetition of the phrase ‘evening and morning,’ which divides the passage into a seven-day scheme.” His conclusion? “Creation forms a period of one work week concluding with a rest day.”
The text cannot be reconciled with the notion that creation occurred over long ages of time through evolutionary processes. MacArthur writes, “The simple, rather obvious fact is that no one would ever think the timeframe for creation was anything other than a normal week of seven days from reading the Bible and allowing it to interpret itself.”
Let me just end with a quote from the editors of Coming to Grips With Genesis: “Whatever happened to the key Reformation principle of anaologia fidei, by which believers strove for doctrinal truths by comparing Scripture with Scripture? Dare we argue that inspiration extends to jots and tittles, paying meticulous attention to tiny exegetical details in the New Testament, only to suspend this same rigorous analysis when we come to the creation and Flood accounts?”
He asks, “why is the rule of context drilled into the minds of seminary students, only to be arbitrarily suspended when dealing with these two biblical topics?”
In other words, why is it that conservative, evangelical teachers of the Word are firmly committed to sound hermeneutics everywhere except the first few chapters of Genesis?
Dr. Kirk Youngblood