WEEKLY SERMON BLOG
“Is the Doctrine of Special Creation Important?”
We are admonished in the New Testament, not to be conformed to the world. The pressure we must resist in doing this sometimes comes in the form of threats of violence if we will not conform. However, more often than not some sort of social pressure is applied to the Christian that is meant to persuade them that conformity to the views, values, and ways of the world represents our best interest. Sometimes this pressure comes in the form of an opportunity to make a compromise that will make things easier for all concerned.
Living in the western world in the 21st century, the Christian has many beliefs that conflict with the surrounding culture; however, one which arouses a significant degree of animosity and censure is belief in the Biblical account of Creation. This should cause use to question whether or not this teaching is one clear enough and second, important enough that we need to cling to it regardless of what people think of us. Or is this a teaching that is of so unclear that we can’t be certain what God meant, or so tangential to the heart of our faith that we can abandon it rather than making it an unnecessary point of contention with the world? Thinking this through is an important way of establishing why we will not back away from what
I. What Does the Bible Teach?
The most controversial aspect of what the Bible teaches in the Genesis creation account (ch.1), is that we are told that God created everything in six sequential 24-hour days. At the very heart of the world’s scientific understanding of origins is the belief that everything we see around us was formed gradually over billions of years by purely natural processes. So, this idea of a six-day creation is completely impossible to reconcile with the views of modern science. It is why it is illegal to teach creation in public schools because it is seen as hopelessly unreal and therefore simply an article of a subjective faith.
Many Evangelical Christians have suggested that it is possible to believe both the Genesis creation account, and the conclusions of modern science. It is suggested that this is possible once one recognizes that the Hebrew word “yom” (translated as “day”) is fluid in meaning and can refer to an undefined long period of time. However, the Evangelical interpreters who make this claim are unable to establish a convincing exegetical argument that demonstrates that their claim is not only possible, but reflects the author’s intent. There are no indisputable uses of the word “day” to refer to long periods of time, and nothing in the Genesis account itself that indicates that the reader should understand that each day is to be understood in a metaphorical sense. In fact, just the opposite is true, the author employs language that reinforces a literal sense. The days are given with ordinal numbers (i.e. first, second, third, etc.); this roots the words in the concrete not the figurative. In addition, we are told that each day is marked by an evening and a morning (listed this way because in the Hebrew culture the new day starts at sunset the night before’; in fact, the word evening literally refers to the setting of the sun, and morning to its raising). This language unmistakably points to six literal 24-hour days.
Like the rest of the Bible Paul’s words to the believers at Colossae reflect the original revelation of the origin of all things in Genesis one:
This passage reiterates that everything that is, was made directly by God. There is never any reference
to God employing secondary means; it simply emphasizes that every single thing that exists, exists because God created it. Beyond this Paul adds that God in Christ sustains the creation constantly by holding it together (vs.17).
The only other prominent thought relates to the reference to the various titles of authority. These refer not to humans who have such positions, but to the belief that these are positions occupied by angelic beings. The Colossian heresy was the worship of angelic creatures whom they had been taught to believe had created and therefore had power over various aspects of the Creation. Paul’s point is that God did all of this alone. The new manifestation of this sort of heresy in our time is that Evangelicals want to ascribe the power of creation to impersonal forces instead of almighty God and His Christ. Taken together it becomes clear that the Scriptures teach that Creation took place in six sequential 24-hour days.
II. Other Important Doctrines Are Dependent the Validity of the Genesis Account:
But what would be the implications if we do decide to conclude that there are other interpretive options regarding how to understand Genesis one? It we conclude that 24-hour, six-day Creationism is wrong; are there any negative consequences to that choice? The implications if we decide to embrace the conclusions of evolution upon on doctrines of Scripture are catastrophic. For example, in his letter to the believers at Rome, Paul wrote:
If there was no Creation week, and instead life evolved over millions of years; then not only is Genesis 1-2 mythical, so are the chapters about the first couple and their immediate offspring (ch.3-4). Thus, there was no real Adam and Eve. However, Paul’s argument in the passage cited above is that Adam’s sin resulted not only in his own death, but is the reason that all human beings are mortal and sinful; because they inherited these characteristics from their first ancestor, Adam. So if there was no real Adam or Eve, then Paul’s argument is invalid. So the Biblical doctrines of the fall, original sin, and depravity all cease to be factual. Instead, by adopting an evolutionary understanding we must conclude that since death existed long before humans entered the scene that human sin has nothing to do with why the world is as it is. But Paul not only roots the problem of sin in Adam; he says that Christ in providing eternal redemption took on the same role as Adam for those he came to save. If Paul is wrong about Adam, there is no reason to believe he is right about Jesus Christ.
Also in Paul’s first letter to his protégé Timothy, he wrote:
I Timothy 2:11-15
Paul’s argument regarding the roles of men and women is based upon the understanding that Adam and Eve were real persons, who were given differing roles by God Himself. If there was no Adam and Eve, these lessons would be drawn from an inference in a story and would lack the justification these teachings need
if they are to be held to by us in a time when traditional roles of men and women are being radically re-interpreted.
Finally, and most importantly we read how the Genesis account of creation is used in the teaching of Jesus:
Jesus alludes to the Creation detail in Genesis 1:27 that God made human beings male and female, and then quotes Genesis 2:24 where Moses drew a conclusion based upon the Creation account. Jesus speaks about Adam and Eve as if they were real people. If they were not, then Jesus either did not know they had not existed, or He knew and was simply appealing to the ignorance of His audience. However, the implications for either one is staggering for the Christian. Because either Jesus isn’t God (demonstrated by His ignorance of a historical reality) or Jesus is a liar (because He intentionally passed on a falsehood). Either way the integrity and character of Jesus suffers to the point He is no longer capable of being the Savior the NT describes Him to be.
The point is that these instances prove that if the Creation account is not taken literally, it makes a huge difference to other doctrines of the Bible as well.
III. There Are No Other Viable Interpretive Options:
This does not mean that no other interpretive options are offered; only that none of them can be sufficiently demonstrated to represent the author’s true intent.
One attempt, is known as the Day-Age theory. Though there are a number of differing forms of this teaching, the basic idea is that the “days” of Creation are understood to be sequential, but each day refers to a very long period of time (like a geological age). What is less important is how this viewpoint interprets the details of the Creation account. What is most important for the purpose of this study is to examine the arguments put forward that Moses intended to write poetically about ages, when he used the word for “day”. The startling thing is the authors who espouse this view offer no justification from the text itself as to why the first few chapters are to be interpreted this way. This is because the controversy about the 6-day creation week does come because of the lack of clarity in the passage. Instead, the controversy is theological and philosophical; seeking to find a way that allows the Christian to believe in both the Genesis account, and the conclusions of modern science. Of course, to the humanist, there is no such middle ground. Any belief in the supernatural in general or of an all-powerful
God specifically is intellectually intolerable. But
many Christians want to insist that there is this
Another school of thought is what is known as the framework view. According to this view, the days are thematic poetry that covers Creation in a topical manner. The poetic references describe in a general way what God supposedly accomplished through natural forces over many eons. Interpreters who advance this view attempt to justify it on the basis of what they see in the writings of the cultures that surrounded the Israelites. Mythological representations that are meant to convey how things came to be in that pre-scientific age. The problem with this analogy with pagan culture is that their writings were rooted in falsehood; and the Scriptures are understood to be God’s truth about these same subjects that the pagans wrote about. Therefore the analogy between Israel’s theology and that of its pagan neighbors, can only be embraced if one decides in advance that the Bible is composed simply of the notions of the Israelites, and is not revelation. A position which is at odds with the basic convictions that are meant to distinguish an Evangelical from other types of Christians.
Exodus 20; gives us the best insight regarding how Moses himself (the author of Genesis) understood what he had recorded in Genesis one. In this portion of the Law, Moses quotes God Himself saying:
The Law makes it clear that the Israelites are to work six regular 24-hour days, and then are to rest on the seventh 24-hour day. Therefore, the Israelites were commanded to emulate the pattern God had established in Creation. It is suggested by some that this proves that the account of the creation week was organized to support this teaching. But this conclusion is pure speculation. It is better to side with God who indicates that the pattern was set in creation itself, and the Sabbath observance simply results from following this pattern.
There is no positive reason to support any conclusion other than the traditional one, that Moses wrote about six sequential 24-hour days in which Creation took place literally as the text describes. It should be noted that this was the universal understanding of Christians until the latter part of the 19th century.
Though at times Evangelical writers attempt to assert that their reason for advancing alternative views is exegetical, it is not. The compulsion to believe these views is to accommodate the assertions of modern science.
Besides the details of the Creation week do not fit at all with the order of what would have taken place if the universe and the earth were formed by natural forces. As an example; according to Genesis one, the sun is not created until the fourth day. That detail cannot be harmonized with a naturalistic explanation of origins. However, if one accepts at face value what is written, then one understands that the original non-solar light that existed on the first three days parallels the non-solar light that will illumine the new heavens and earth (Rev.21:23; 22:5).
Many false analogies are thrown at Christians to suggest that their belief in the literal account of Genesis is tantamount to intellectual suicide and that there are early examples of this where scientists were proven right and Christians wrong. One is the debate between the Roman Catholic Church and astronomers about whether the solar system was geo-centric (everything rotated around the earth) or solar-centric. The Church insisted that the earth was flat and the center of the solar system. They were proven wrong and looked foolish and it is suggested that the same is true about a 6-day, 24-hour creation. However, the difference is that the Bible does not teach that the earth is flat, nor that it is the center of the solar system. It does teach however that the earth was made in six 24-hour days. So the analogy is false. Just because the Roman Catholic Church in their arrogance clung to their traditions does not mean that we will suffer the same humiliation; because our trust is in the word of God Himself.
IV. Our Opponents Have Failed to Make their Case:
If something has actually be proven, then of course it is intellectually absurd not to accept it. However, the claim of naturalists that they have proven that everything evolved through naturalistic means is propaganda, not truth. Unlike what is claimed, the debate about origins is not between those of blind faith versus those who deal only in facts with open minds. The debate represents a conflict between two irreconcilable philosophies; one that includes a belief in the supernatural and the others which arbitrarily rules out the supernatural.
The question of origins is not something that can be objectively answered through science. This is because the scientific method requires the ability to test hypotheses in an effort to reproduce what is believed to be the cause of a given thing. But any view of origins is by definition an untestable hypothesis. If special creation is true, then it isn’t testable because God finished the process thousands of years ago. If evolution were true, its processes are so slow that no one will live long enough to run any tests.
The reality is that we are debating about an event in history. Science can’t answer what is or isn’t true about history. The pursuit of historical truth is the process of seeking confirming evidence that a given thing happened. The question is then how well is either position supported by the available evidence.
The fossil record more clearly represents what one would expect from Creation. The fossils found represent fully developed divergent life forms. This does not support naturalism because that model would suggest that the fossil record would reflect a great number of transitional forms that bridge the gap between kinds of animals. But no such transitional forms have been found. In their place we are told to look at the diversity within species (dogs, cats, horses, butterflies). It is suggested that these illustrate the evolution of life. However, that is fallacious. No informed person argues that species do not have a great deal of genetic variety (animal breeders for centuries have proven that). The question is not how many dog breeds one can develop; for evolution to be true, the dog must become a completely different animal. And there is no evidence for this. In fact, experimentation with breeding shows that there are species boundaries
There are many other problems with evolution. Its proponents tend to only cite evidence that reinforces their view, while suppressing the evidence that doesn’t fit it. In scientific journals there are records of dinosaurs that were dug up that were not fossilized; in fact they discovered red blood cells. This is a monumental piece of evidence and yet it is not widely reported, why? Because it is almost impossible to see how a blood cell survived 65 million years without drying out.
Also though the scientific community are uniform in their assertion that evolution is true; there is no agreement as to how it took place; not even regarding whether it happened quickly or slowly. If there is no agreement regarding how any aspect of it happened; how can everyone be so certain it did happen?
Naturalism cannot explain irreducible complexity. In other words some systems in living things require multiple independent parts of the body to work together to create a function. For example, sight. The traditional explanation in classrooms is that a light sensitive spot gives a creature an advantage and thus it survives. Over generations that light sensitive spot becomes an eye. However, this simple breakdown of Darwinists misses the irreducible complexity. To see, one needs not only an eye that works, one also needs the right sort of nervous system to translate the impulses to the brain. One of course also needs a brain that can interpret these impulses and turn them into sight. These three systems are independent of one another. They would all have to develop over time until they would together furnish sight, in spite of the fact that one would have nothing (no advantage over other creatures) until every part of the body’s system of sight was fully developed. That is asking a lot from mindless processes, and so this is a major stumbling block to the theory among many modern biologists.
V. It Is Simply an Expression of Unbelief:
The reality is that this has already happened once before in the relatively recent past. At the close of the nineteenth century into the earlier years of the twentieth century, Bible believing Christians became concerned that they needed to win the world’s intellectual acceptance in order to successfully preach the Gospel of Christ in their time. So they had their leaders train in European schools that had long denied the supernatural. When these men became leaders in their denominations they brought an intellectual disdain for the supernatural. So they taught their people to reject the Genesis account of Creation, and then the miracles of Jesus, then His virgin conception, then His physical resurrection, and when the parade of concessions were over those churches no longer had a Gospel or any reason to exist. Modern Evangelicals are walking down this same road again in our time. The Christian can never gain the intellectual respect of the world without denying their God; because that denial is what fuels their passionate war on traditional Christianity.
The suggestion is made (as observed above) that the Bible was written to a pre-scientific age. Therefore, Genesis speaks to primitives who could understand origins in no other way. There is a profound arrogance in statements like these. That the intellectuals of our time are capable of understanding anything. The reality is we still are like infants in our understanding of the reality that surrounds us; and the more we root our conclusions in a non-theistic worldview, the more erroneous our conclusions will be. The people to whom the Bible was written originally were not that different from ourselves. It is true that God condescended to their level of understanding; but that condescension is needed just as much now as it was then. But what God said is understandable. The Almighty chose to create in six days. He could have done it in six minutes if He had chosen to, but the six days served His purpose.
In his Gospel, John records Jesus speaking the following words:
Jesus’ point is that the Scripture can never fail nor will anything it says ever pass away. We must choose whom we will believe. The gurus of our time; or the timeless words of God Himself.
The teaching of special Creation is important because it illustrates the reality of God to a lost world. The world wants to pretend He isn’t there; but if we insist on declaring the reality that God created the world out of nothing and that because of this we are completely obliged to Him for our existence. This will keep before the minds of people a truth that is very dangerous to lose sight of. For the believer, it is God’s power over everything that fills us with assurance that He can’t keep us safe. Since, God created everything, He certainly has complete power over everything.
In the Bonds of Christ,
Pastor Michael Huard