The Relevance of the Biblical Doctrine of Creation
Some Christians today regard the matter of Creation as somewhat of a side issue. Many say such things as, 'So you have your view that Genesis is literal history, and I have the view of the Creation days being long periods of time and God using Evolution. It doesn't really matter as long as you believe the gospel, that Christ died for our sins.' What is the responsible Christian reply to this type of statement?
Firstly, we have to realise that at the heart of this matter is the question of biblical authority, and this is crucial to Christian witness. Of course it is true that salvation is not dependent on whether I believe in Creation, any more than that those saved from drowning in the icy seas off Newfoundland in 1912 needed to know who had made the few lifeboats that were actually launched from the Titanic before it sank. But, to be prepared for a similar tragedy, maritime designers caring for the safety of their passengers were most concerned about the design of lifeboats. In exactly the same way, if we are serious and earnest about reaching the millions of our own country with the great gospel of Jesus Christ, if we are serious about witness to a dying world and if we are involved with open-air work, door-to-door evangelism and getting the message out to the ordinary person concerning the Christ of the Scriptures, then we must be fully confident in the Scriptures themselves. Are they reliable or not? The lifeboat must be watertight.
The question of origins soon comes into conversation when one is involved in witness to thinking people. Whether we were made by Someone or have come about with no purpose has a direct bearing on how we operate in every-day life. Am I answerable to anyone? Who made the rules? If there is a Person who has made us, then purpose, plan and absolutes have a direct bearing on my life. If I am created, then the meaning of life comes from outside, not within. Young people at open-air meetings will often speak with disdain concerning the Bible, if one refers to it for authority in preaching. The reason is that they have been taught by many (sadly, probably most) teachers in the state schools that the Bible is not reliable, and certainly cannot be trusted in the matter of origins. The media today are full of anti-Christian sentiment. Television series of nature documentaries seem very convincing to the average viewer – full of overt and at times more subtle references to 'what people used to believe – special Creation – but we have now come of age: we don't believe all that now – Christianity is outdated'. This carries the unsaid implication that God is dead, unnecessary and even ridiculous. This is the prevailing sentiment in our culture today – and what is it all based on? Atheistic humanism with evolution as the god which cannot be questioned.
This is why whenever someone dares to march to a different drum on this issue, people do stop and listen in open-air or other evangelistic meetings, or simply in one-to-one conversations. Why? Because this is immediately relevant to Mr and Mrs Average, Miss Teen or Mr Twenty. They see that what we are saying has implications. We are touching a nerve. Some will be curious, others will argue heatedly, others will scoff, but they rarely will be apathetic, because you are touching most modern people's world-view and daring to question what everyone has assumed true. In some ways this is no different from Martin Luther who, when standing firmly for Scripture in his day, dared to pin his Ninety-Five Theses on the church door at Wittenberg in the autumn of 1517. Yes, it was revolutionary, but most important, the attack was relevant, because the Roman Church had undermined the gospel with its system of indulgences, making money out of oppression – in the name of Christ! To dare to touch the dominant thinking made his message immediately relevant to the ordinary person, as well as the authorities. How significant that Luther also wrote the following:
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest expression every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.
Paul states: 'For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds' (2 Cor. 10:4). We cannot storm Satan's citadel without first grasping that reaching out with the gospel and seeing the minds of people opened up to Christ is first a spiritual matter, and, secondly, understanding how deeply the ungodly system in our western culture is rooted in evolution. Consequently it is pointless with some to go straight to speaking of the gospel itself, when they are not over the first hurdle in their understanding. Paul realised this when speaking to the Athenians on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-31). Unlike the Jews, they had no background concerning Creation. With Jews he could go straight to speaking of Christ's death fulfilling the Old Testament sacrifices. But not with the Greeks of Athens. There he had first to define the starting point of the God who created the world. Western society is in a similar position. There is very little real thought of the awesome Creator in men's minds. We have to state very clearly who God is and to say that he is the Creator. To spell out the implications is very important, or else further communication will seem irrelevant. By doing this we are emphasising the authority of the Bible from its opening pages.
Some think that there will be greater respect for evangelism if we take the view that God used evolution to make us (theistic evolution). However, apart from the issues raised concerning the theology of the atonement, the world sees this as no challenge to its dominant man-centred philosophy. The thinking sceptic simply says to the theistic evolutionist, 'You have your crutch to put behind the grand edifice of evolution. I prefer just to believe in evolution.' The subtlety is that, rather than a direct challenge to the sceptic to submit to God's Holy Word, the issue has shifted to a debate concerning how evolution works. Any average thinking person knows that evolution is nowhere taught in the Bible; he knows that the straightforward rendering of Scripture is a diametrically opposed philosophy – special creation. Consequently when speaking to those who doubt God's existence and have little respect for his Word, it is much better to come up-front with such folk, showing them that there is an alternative starting-point, and that there is a totally different way of looking at the world, in terms of an originally-perfect creation marred by sin and rebellion. Atheists will not necessarily agree with you (because they want to justify a lifestyle where they are not answerable to a Creator), but they cannot deny the consistency of your faith. On the other hand if confronted with compromise on the very first chapter of the Bible, there is no real challenge to their atheism. This of course may not be the approach for all (for some still respect Scripture and do not necessarily need to start with Genesis), but if the first book is challenged, we need to have a clear and straight answer (1 Pet. 3:15).
A Foundation for Life
The issue of Creation/Evolution is no mere academic matter, as some maintain. There is an immediate implication, certainly in the minds of young people. Consider some of these quotations from leading evolutionists: Most people grow up and go through their lives without ever really understanding Darwinism. They spend enormous amounts of time learning church teachings. This annoys me, out of a love for truth. To me, religion is very largely an enemy of truth.Richard Dawkins, Interview, Omni, 12 (4), Jan 1990, pp. 60-61
Our theory of evolution has become ... one which cannot be refuted by any possible observation. Every conceivable observation can be fitted into it. It is thus 'outside of empirical science' but not necessarily false. No one can think of ways in which to test it. Ideas, either without basis or based on a few laboratory experiments carried out in extremely simplified conditions have attained currency far beyond their validity. They have become part of an evolutionary dogma accepted by most of us as part of our training.L. C. Birch and P. R. Ehrlich, Nature, 214 (1967), p. 369
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin went further:
(Evolution) is a general postulate to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must henceforward bow and which they must satisfy in order to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow – this is what evolution is.Quoted by F. J. Ayala, 'Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution',
Review of the work of T. Dobzhansky, Journal of Heredity, 68, 1977, pp. 3-10
The late Professor Verna Wright, a leading communicator in the 1990s, President of the Creation Science Movement, Vice President of the Biblical Creation Society and one who saw many people converted through his ministry, said of our western decadent society:
In our country there are two major systems of philosophical thought. The first is built on revealed truth (the Bible). On this is placed the block of divine creation, then absolute morality, issuing in responsible man and a caring world. The alternative has humanist philosophy as its foundation. Atheistic evolution is placed on this, then situational ethics (or amorality), issuing in autonomous man and self-centred society.Foreword to Daniel Wilson, The Lord's Day, 1988 Edition,
published by the Lord's Day Observance Society
What we believe in this area identifies our foundational position. If we say that we accept evolution as well as biblical creation, we are seeking to build a doctrinal structure on a foundation of the enemy, not one which is an integral part of the biblical framework.
The Importance of Foundations
The sceptic may pay lip service to a convenient morality which gives him some stability, but any hint of absolutes is anathema. Ultimately the only individual who matters is himself. The 'selfish gene' principle of Dawkins is logical, given this foundation. It should not surprise us. This philosophy will never entertain a belief in a spiritual reality. Everything comes from matter, and men and women are no different from animals. Abortion and fetal experimentation are not considered inappropriate, just as euthanasia, at the other end of the scale, is renamed 'mercy killing'. Pornography is available on virtually all news-stands, while homosexuality is simply regarded as a valid alternative lifestyle (despite its medical dangers). The youth of our country, already degraded through the drugs scene, are now wide-open to increasing pressure to 'think positively' of that which the Bible so explicitly condemns. This particular sin has been the trigger to great judgements on previous cultures such as the Roman Empire. If there is no Creator and no judgement, the vast beyond is nothingness, so why worry? Some with a measure of conscience have tried to retain a sense of morality in society, but such thinking is alien to an atheistic foundation and in fact comes from the last vestiges of the other foundation, the remains of the Christian ethic in western thinking.
If we want to influence our nation from our Christian base, if we want to produce faithful marriages, doctors of principle, leaders who will stand for law based on Scripture, then we must teach carefully and systematically that foundations matter. At the heart of this issue is the necessity to have a high view of Scripture when it comes to origins.
Death, Redemption and the Gospel
If we accept theistic evolution, we are in conflict with the biblical teaching on death.
Man died spiritually and physically as a result of the Fall
The origin of death is spiritual since in Romans Paul states, 'For the wages of sin is death' (Rom. 6:23). Behind sin is the devil who tempted man at the beginning, so in Hebrews 2:14 we read of the destruction of 'him that had the power of death, that is the devil'. When Adam and Eve took of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they died in two senses. Immediately they died spiritually. The principle of physical death was established for them and the whole human race. God's Word in Genesis 2:17 was, 'In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die' (literally, 'dying, thou shalt die'). Spiritual death was immediate when Adam and Eve partook of the tree, bringing separation and loss of fellowship with God. Eventually (about 930 years later for Adam) their physical death was certain ('thou shalt die'). If there was death before the Fall (of pre-Adamic hominids, etc.), what dramatic effect did the Fall described in Genesis have?
There was no animal death before the Fall
At the Fall, the ground was cursed and the whole of Creation was put out of joint. We understand from Romans 8:22 that 'the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now'. The implication is that the animal kingdom was affected also. Verses such as Genesis 1:30 ('And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life ['nephesh'], I have given every green herb for meat') imply that animals and humans were vegetarians and death by predators was unknown before the Fall.
The first recorded instance of bloodshed is attributed to God himself (Gen. 3:21) after the Fall. With the picture of substitution (the covering of Adam and Eve's nakedness by the skins of an animal), there is the strong implication that animals also did not experience death before the Fall.
This is all consistent with the statement of Genesis 1:31 that all was good at Creation, and that it was the first man Adam who brought in death: 'By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men' (Rom. 5:12).
Christ is our only Redeemer
The Bible is the story of Redemption. But the enormity of our need is linked to the vital truth that we sinned in Adam. Our death comes because Adam sinned. Our spiritual paralysis comes directly from a real physical individual. When we grasp that, the enormous wonder of the last Adam – Christ – takes on a glorious hue to the believer. Our creation was sixty centuries ago millions of days as against millions of years! We sinned in Adam, our federal head, but now we have a new federal head – Another Man, the God-Man Christ Jesus. The Scriptures stress that Christ has come to reverse the effect of the Fall. He has broken the power of death and sin, for our sins were laid on him. 'For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord' (Rom. 6:23). 'Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive ... The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven' (1 Cor. 15:21, 22, 47).
The whole of 1 Corinthians 15 in fact teaches very clearly that the first man Adam brought death, but that Christ, the last man, brings life. To tamper with this straightforward parallel is to tamper with the gospel itself. It is ironic that Thomas Huxley was clear on this issue and skillfully used it to his own darker ends. He realised that the removal of Genesis would lead to the whole of redemption falling down like a line of dominoes:
I am fairly at a loss to comprehend how anyone for a moment can doubt that Christian theology must stand or fall with the historical trustworthiness of the Jewish Scriptures. The very conception of the Messiah, or Christ, is inextricably interwoven with Jewish history; the identification of Jesus of Nazareth with that Messiah rests upon the interpretation of the passages of the Hebrew Scriptures which have no evidential value unless they possess the historical character assigned to them.Science and the Hebrew Tradition: Essays by Thomas H. Huxley, London:
Macmillan, 1903, p. 207
It is the considered view of the author that we should all be presenting the biblical truth of creation unashamedly to others, though not always with great emphasis on the scientific arguments. The gospel should always be declared, without dependence on men, since Christ speaks independently of our changing scientific scene. I stress the relevance of this issue in the hope that more will see the importance of fearlessly presenting the truth of God's six-day creation and our Fall in Adam. As the millennium unfolds, the vital need for Christians to stand and be counted on this issue is more pressing than ever. If we desire revival in our decadent societies, we must repent and return as individuals and churches to a deep conviction of the authority and inerrancy of the Word of God, from the very beginning in Genesis chapter 1.