When I first visited America in the early eighties, I was asked to be a guest on a number of talk show programs on Christian radio. At first I was rather nervous about what questions I would be asked. As time went on, however, I found out that I was asked the same questions that people in Australian churches would also ask me. Let me summarize them for you:
- Where did Cain get his wife?
- Can’t Christians believe in evolution?
- Doesn’t carbon dating prove the earth is very old?
- How do dinosaurs fit with the Bible?
- Haven’t scientists proved the earth is billions of years old?
- How did Noah get all the animals on the Ark?
- Wasn’t there a gap between the first two verses in Genesis?
- Isn’t a day like a thousand years, so the days of creation must be long periods?
- Where did all the different ‘races’ of people come from?
- How do you explain the apemen?
- Are the days of creation ordinary days?
In 1987 we moved to the United States. Since that time I have appeared on numerous radio talk shows. You know what is fascinating? I basically get the same questions from listeners every time! Sometimes, a talk show host will ask me before we go on the air about what sort of questions I think the callers will ask.
My standard reply is this: ‘Well, let me tell you … .’ And I run down the above list.
What I’ve tried to do over the years is to incorporate the answers to these questions into my talks, knowing that most people in the audience, by and large, want answers to these. This situation stimulated us to produce a book called The Answers Book1 that offers detailed answers to these most-asked questions.
Now this experience tells me something very important. The average Christian obviously is not getting the answers to these questions from their churches or Christian schools.
And then I found out something even more interesting. Back in 1925 at the famous Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, William Jennings Bryan, the man who really represented Christianity at the trial, was asked some of these same questions.2 He could not answer them!3 Sadly, nothing much seems to have changed since then.
I’m even asked many of these same questions when I appear on secular talk shows. I believe this is because there are people in the secular world who know that most Christians can’t answer them, particularly questions like ‘Where did Cain get his wife?’ Thus, to the non-Christian, the fact that Christians don’t have answers is their justification for not believing the Bible.
Also, I’ve found that Christians from conservative Bible-believing churches ask many of the same questions. Again, I believe that most Christians can’t connect the Bible with the real world because they’ve been so influenced by the world’s teachings. Even if they don’t believe in evolution per se, they still have been indoctrinated in millions of years of history and other evolutionary teaching. The attacks on Genesis have been so massive that most Christians have given up trying to defend it. Now they can’t answer basic questions. And if they can’t answer these questions, then their children won’t be able to either. Thus, their children could easily reject all of the Bible, which is what has been happening at an alarming rate in Christianity.
Most people in our churches don’t understand that the Bible is a history book. Christianity is not based on myth or interesting stories—it is based on real history. There was a real Adam, to whom we are all related. There was a real Garden and Fall, which is why we are all sinners. There was a real Curse, which is why there is death and suffering.
From what do we need to be saved if the Bible really can’t be trusted?
A pastor might be the best Bible expositor in the world. He may be teaching his people verse by verse through Scripture (which, by the way, is the type of Bible teaching we all need). Nonetheless, if most of the congregation can’t answer the questions above—and even if this pastor expounds every verse in Genesis correctly—he will still not reach his people. If pastors can’t connect it to the real world, then it’s almost ‘pie in the sky.’ I find that many Christians look on the Bible only as a book about salvation. To them, Christianity is only about getting saved, going to heaven and warning people about hell.
But Christianity is much more than this. It is a whole way of thinking and living in today’s world. When our children ask questions about the real world—questions like the above, concerning dinosaurs, fossils, Noah’s ark, Cain’s wife, and races—we need to show them that the Bible connects all this to reality. If the connection to real history is lost, then ultimately what does it mean to be saved? From what do we need to be saved if the Bible really can’t be trusted?
After I spoke at one church, a man came up to me and said, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize how important Genesis is. I’ve never thought about that. I’m excited. Where are those books you mentioned—I want to buy some.’
The pastor standing nearby came and said to me, ‘I don’t understand. I’ve preached my heart out on Genesis and this man just argued with me for months. You come in here and give one talk, and he’s turned around. What happened?’
What happened was that I explained Genesis not just from the text, but connected it to the real world, pointing out the inconsistencies of believing what the world was teaching—and answering some of the most-asked questions I knew people like this man would have.
It’s a very different way of teaching Genesis.
To illustrate this further, let me share with you the philosophy behind a Bible curriculum we are preparing [now complete]. I believe this way of teaching should be applied in all of our Bible teaching in the church anyway.
We call it the ‘Seven C’s’ approach. The Seven C’s represent major events in history from the Bible. We start at the beginning, and follow a timeline of history to its end.
Now, of course, there are many other events one could add, but these are some of the major events of history. We put them on a time-line from the beginning (about 6,000 years ago) up until the present, then on into the future. When you think about it, everything we teach in Christianity goes back to this timeline of history. And this is the point: we need to show people that the Bible is a history book, and that everything connects to real history.
As we teach through the Bible, then, I believe we always need to incorporate four major thrusts.
We need to clearly teach—from the plain language—what the Bible states. For instance, because it is God’s Word (and not just a human work), then Scripture must be self-authenticating and self-attesting, and Scripture must interpret Scripture. Certainly, extrabiblical sources can be used to aid us in understanding the background against which it was written, but these sources must be secondary to the context of the Bible’s words themselves.
Because the world is against the Bible, we must be certain that we understand what the world is saying and doing in attacking and undermining the Bible. This must then be counteracted.
Christians should be taught how to logically defend what the Bible is teaching us, taking into account how the secular world (and even other Christians) attack this point. Because many Christians have compromised with the world’s teachings, people need to be taught why these compromise positions are wrong, so they can defend their faith to other believers. This overlaps with point 4.
The doctrine that comes out of this section needs to be clearly enunciated and then application made to our daily living.
Let’s get specific with some practical examples.
A. We are teaching about the creation of Adam and Eve
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul(Gen. 2:7).
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh(Gen. 2:21–24).
The Bible clearly states that Adam was made from dust and Eve from his side.
The world, however, teaches that man evolved from an apeman and woman from an apewoman. This teaching needs to be shown as wrong. Examples of so-called apemen could be refuted.
Christians can be taught how to defend that there was one man and one woman at the beginning. Passages of Scripture such as 1 Corinthians 15:45 and Genesis 3:20 could be used. Scientific evidence of the close genetic relatedness of all people can be shown not as ‘proof,’ but as solid evidence.4
The doctrine of marriage—one man for one woman for life—should be explained. The fact that we become one in marriage (see Matt. 19:4–6 and Eph. 5:28–29), because Eve was taken out of Adam—they were one flesh. Eve could not have come from some preexisting animal—this would destroy the basis of oneness in marriage.
B. The teaching of the Fall of Adam
The Bible clearly states there was a literal tree, garden, serpent, temptation, fruit and Adam. Adam literally rebelled. Sin entered the world—and it had consequences.
The world, however, teaches that there was no such event in history. The world talks about the doctrine of uniformitarianism—the belief that things have basically gone on as they are for millions of years. Christians could bring up events in geology (such as the eruption of Mount St. Helens5) and their consequences (rapid sedimentary layering, canyon formation, etc.) that could be used to refute this. Because death, disease, bloodshed and suffering were a consequence of sin, one can’t have millions of years of death and disease in a fossil record before Adam.
Christians need to be able to defend that there had to be a literal Fall—that this explains the origin of death and suffering. This is the only thing that explains a seemingly contradictory world. The Fall has to be a literal event in history or sin cannot be defined. Christians have to believe in this account as literal history.
The doctrine of sin, its consequences, and the fact that we are all descendants of this first man is why we are sinners—and why we need salvation. And there is the doctrine of the restoration, the future removal of the Curse.
C. The Cross and Resurrection
The Bible clearly teaches the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was a literal resurrection.
The world, however, says that Jesus was just a man—so this needs to be counteracted by Christians. Some say Jesus really didn’t rise from the dead—the so-called ‘swoon theory.’ There are many fine books that help us defend the historicity of this account.
People need to be taught that the reason He died was because death was the penalty for sin. That’s why Christians can’t believe in millions of years of history and add it to the Bible.6
The doctrine of the Resurrection is central to the gospel. Jesus is called the ‘last Adam’ because He became the new head of the human race, taking the place of the ‘first Adam.’7
Whenever Bible teachers are expounding the Word of God, they should always keep in mind that what they are teaching is attacked from within and without the church. By teaching their people how to defend the Bible against those attacks, Bible teachers will equip Christians to be much more prepared to defend the Bible in public and to teach their children authoritatively.
One of the reasons I emphasize this is because it was so true in my own life. My father always was one to defend the Bible against the attacks of the day. It wasn’t good enough for him just to say ‘Believe it and don’t worry about what others say.’ He saw the necessity to logically defend the Bible—knowing, of course, that it does stand on its own anyway.
When it came to times when my father didn’t have answers, he didn’t capitulate to what others were saying. He would patiently research the answers. For instance, when I asked my father about the evolutionary teaching I was receiving at school, he didn’t have any answers at first. We didn’t have the wealth of materials we have today. But instead of doing what many Christians did (e.g. tell their children they could add evolution to the Bible, or that it didn’t matter), he pointed out the importance of believing in a literal Genesis. As far as the science was concerned, he said we would have to wait. For him, if he was sure the Bible text taught something clearly, he would stick by this regardless. This greatly influenced me. When the answers did come, he was excited that he could now counteract what the world was teaching.
When I have visited youth groups, Christian schools and other church groups over the years, I’ve been so disappointed to find that although many might be on fire for the Lord, most of them could not answer basic questions about Christianity. They couldn’t really defend their faith.
Young people coming out of a Christian school or college can have the best results academically, leave with undergraduate and graduate degrees, and get prestigious jobs—but if they can’t defend their faith and effectively proclaim the gospel in an increasingly secular society, what good is all that education?
Here are just some of the basic questions that many Christians can’t answer. Why not seriously think about whether you (or the people in your church) can answer these adequately:
Where did the Bible come from? Why is it the Word of God? How do we know it’s infallible? Who wrote the Bible? Why is Christianity better than Buddhism? How do we know there’s a God? Where did God come from?
When you think about it, these are really very basic questions. And of course there are these:
Where did Cain get his wife? Can’t Christians believe in evolution? Doesn’t carbon dating prove the earth to be very old? How do dinosaurs fit with the Bible? Haven’t scientists proved the earth is billions of years old? How did Noah get all the animals on the Ark? Wasn’t there a gap between the first two verses in Genesis? Isn’t a day like a thousand years, so the days of creation must be long periods? Where did all the different ‘races’ of people come from? How do you explain the apemen? Are the days of creation ordinary days?
I believe that much of the church is in a rut. We almost need to stop what we are doing and go back to the very basics. Teachers need to be instructing people on how to defend the very basics of Christianity. This is where I see the modern church failing in a big way. There is too much emotionalism—too many programs—and not enough teaching of the Word and how to defend it in today’s world. There is very little understanding of the real foundational problem that has led to our moral crisis in society. This lack of understanding of the basic problem is also seen in the way the church generally views the doctrine of creation.
Over the years, I have heard many Christians argue that a ministry like Answers in Genesis is not that important because creation, after all, is only a ‘secondary doctrine.’ They believe it is much more important to concentrate on the New Testament and its teachings concerning Christ.
For instance, one of our supporters wrote to the founder and president of Promise Keepers (Bill McCartney), asking about Promise Keepers’ stand on the creation issue. The response received from the assistant to the president reflects what I believe is much of the church’s attitude to this topic. This response stated:
You need to know that the ministry of PK takes no stand on issues like this. In fact, we specifically try to avoid such debates. Our efforts are designed to bring men together based on the historically ‘essential’ doctrines of orthodox Christianity as represented by our Statement of Faith—or to focus on things that unite the body of Christ, instead of those which tend to divide it.
Since different churches and individual Christians hold varying views about creation, it is one of those things we believe falls under the category of ‘secondary doctrines,’ just as we do such things as spiritual gifts, eternal security, the rapture, etc. In short, when it comes to subjects like creation, we believe Christians need to extend grace to each other as summed up in the statement: ‘In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.’8
Now, this is not in any way meant to throw negative aspersions on the PK movement or its leadership. It is not meant to single them out. It is only that their quote succinctly summarizes a position which is shared by the overwhelming majority of Christian ministries today.
Is creation just one of those ‘secondary doctrines’ like spiritual gifts or the Rapture?
Now, I’m sure that those who make a claim similar to the quote above would agree that the doctrine of creation itself (that God is Creator—Genesis 1:1) is a primary doctrine. After all, if God is not Creator, and the first verse of the Bible is not true, then neither is the rest of the Bible. Other than the doctrine of God himself, creation would be the most important doctrine, for everything else in Christianity depends on this being true.
When most Christians talk about the doctrine of creation being a secondary doctrine, what they usually mean is the details of the creation account, (i.e. whether the earth is young or old, the days of creation being ordinary days, or Noah’s Flood being a global event, and so on—these would not be considered essential to Christianity).
The details of the creation account do matter and are essential. If Adam wasn’t a real historical figure, then who is our ancestor? How do we know we are sinners? If Adam’s Fall was not a real event in history, then what is sin? If Adam and Eve weren’t created just as Genesis records, then the doctrine of marriage is meaningless. If the days of creation aren’t ordinary days, then there’s no basis for the seven-day week, and God’s Word doesn’t have to mean what the language clearly states. If the earth is millions of years old, and death, disease and bloodshed existed before sin, then the gospel is undermined.
The point is that the doctrine of creation is foundational to other doctrines. However, what doctrines are the Rapture or spiritual gifts foundational to?
Creation (i.e. the details in Genesis) is not a ‘secondary’ doctrine—it is in fact foundational to all other doctrines.
The world has attacked Christianity and the Word of God by attacking the doctrine of creation—and Christians have basically retreated and compromised with the world’s teachings. We need to begin a full-scale training program to equip the troops with the most powerful weapon in the universe—the Word of God.
As part of this training, we also need to understand the thinking of the people we are going to meet. Keeping in mind the basic overall concept of the ‘Jews’ and the ‘Greeks,’ what types of people are we going to meet? How can we effectively communicate with them so they will come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?