What is a parachurch organization and how does Answers in Genesis decide which issues to address? Bodie Hodge, AiG–U.S., answers these questions and more.
Answers in Genesis (AiG) is a unique ministry for this age—a biblical authority ministry. Many people see us as just a creation and evolution ministry diving into scientific aspects of the creation. Many others view us as a worldview ministry, and yet others see us as an evangelical ministry stressing the gospel (which should be the focus of any ministry), and so on. Although these things may seem to make the AiG ministry unusual, it is something else that makes us unique.
AiG is a parachurch ministry. It could also be called a non-denominational ministry, which means that AiG is not a church in and of itself, but is staffed by church members from various denominations (e.g., Baptist, Christian, Lutheran, Reform, etc.) to focus on specific issues and challenges of today’s culture.
AiG is made up of Christians who unite to defend the authority of the Bible in today’s secular culture. And that is what we are “on about”—the authority of the Bible, often in Genesis—a foundational book, but also other places (like the gospel message of the New Testament).
For example, the secular world has been teaching that the earth is billions of years old. The Bible, based on genealogies recorded throughout the Scriptures and the context of the Hebrew word yom (day) in Genesis 1, reveal that the earth is thousands of years old. So, this question becomes a biblical authority issue. Is one going to trust a perfect God who created all things (Genesis 1:1), has always been there (Revelation 22:13), knows all things (Colossians 2:1–3), and cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), or trust imperfect and fallible humankind who was not there and speculates on the past?
Also, take note that many of these issues ultimately overlap with worldview issues (biblical Christianity vs. secular humanism in this instance). Of course, this subject also gets into the character of Jesus Christ and His deity and, hence, the gospel. For a few other examples of biblical authority issues that AiG gets into, see Table 1.
|Topic||A biblical authority issue?||Does AiG involve itself?|
|Millions of years||Yes. The Bible does not teach millions of years; this idea comes from a source outside the Bible.||Yes|
|Evolution||Yes. The Bible teaches man was specially created from dust, and the woman specially created from the man (Genesis 3), but in an evolutionary worldview, humanity came from an ape-like ancestor.||Yes|
|A local flood||Yes. Genesis 6–8 makes it clear that the Flood was global with the water over the highest mountain by over 15 cubits (Genesis 7:20). Those appealing to a local Flood trust secular authorities who say that the rock layers are evidence of millions of years instead of mostly Noah’s Flood sediment.||Yes|
|The Trinity||Yes. The Bible clearly teaches God is triune. So, sources outside the Bible are going against the Bible (e.g., the Watchtower organization, Koran, etc.)||Yes|
|Racism||Yes. The Bible teaches there is one race that began with Adam and Eve, whereas the world had been teaching that there are perhaps four races (Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid, and Australoid).||Yes|
This is, of course, only a small list of topics, but it should give the reader an idea of how and why we distinguish. Basically, AiG is involved when any issue impacts the authority of Scripture—especially when human claims run counter to what God teaches.
Being a subset of the church as a whole, this is why this ministry is unique. Christians from various denominations can and should be able to come together to defend the authority of the Bible against sources that are claiming the Bible, and ultimately God, is false or wrong.
But there are many who do not fully understand (or may have simply missed) what we mean by biblical authority—even within the various denominations from which we all come. Some want us to dive into issues that are not biblical authority issues. And although these issues are important and may be worthy of careful thought and cordial debate, they are not a topic in which AiG will get involved.
Both sides of this particular debate see the Bible as the authoritative Word of God and draw from its passages to make cases for their positions.
One of these is Calvinism vs. Arminianism. Although we encourage people to know what they believe and why biblically, this is not a biblical authority debate. Both sides of this particular debate see the Bible as the authoritative Word of God and draw from its passages to make cases for their positions. Neither position is appealing to the Koran, autonomous human reason, or others for interpretation of these verses.
Another example would be eschatology. For the most part, each position in this debate readily views the Bible, including the Book of Revelation, as authoritative. So, the debate is about Scripture interpreting Scripture regarding various passages. For this reason, AiG does not comment on this debate or maintain a formal position. A few other examples can be seen in Table 2 below.
|Topic||A biblical authority issue?||Does AiG involve itself?|
|Calvinism vs. Arminianism||No. Both positions view the Bible as the authority.||No|
|Eschatology||No. Each position views the Bible as the authority.1||No|
|Modes of baptism||No. Each position views the Bible as the authority.||No|
|Speaking in tongues today||No. Both positions view the Bible as the authority.||No|
|Church government||No. Each position views the Bible as the authority.||No|
|Saturday vs. Sunday worship||No. Both positions view the Bible as the authority.||No|
|Covenant vs. Dispensational theology||No. Both positions view the Bible as the authority.||No|
This is a fairly short list, but it should give an idea of the debates AiG does not address and why. There may be instances where, even with these subjects, some try to insert an authority other than Scripture, and, so, it may become a biblical authority issue. For example, if someone said that “no one ever spoke in tongues,” then this becomes a biblical authority topic and that particular point could be dealt with because Scripture reveals that speaking in tongues has indeed taken place (Acts 2:4).
The main reason we avoid some topics is due to our focus on biblical authority issues and our desire not to be distracted from what we have been called to do. It can be a difficult task to draw a fine line between the items we address and those we do not. In fact, it is often very difficult simply because all doctrines of Christianity ultimately interconnect.
There are times when we tread a fine line in an effort to word things in a way that each position would agree with. Of course, there are times when a fine line may get crossed in the eyes of some, especially when we work with outside authors that may be associated with one of these issues or who may not be aware of our avoidance of an issue. This is part of the reason why we have a Statement of Faith that reflects where we stand, and we try to remain within that limit.
In reality, all doctrines are interconnected, which makes it difficult to remain silent in some areas and to be vocal in others. Some well-meaning Christians prefer us to focus on one area, and others prefer that we not be involved in some areas at all. We have to draw the line somewhere, and this is done so that we do not lose our focus on biblical authority—especially concerning origins, which is foundational to competing worldviews in today’s culture. By carefully guarding the areas we choose to become involved in, most denominations are readily open to working with and supporting AiG so that we can have a common goal of promoting biblical authority.
We encourage Christians to know what their denomination believes and to respect issues of emphasis and importance for their church or ministries that they’re involved in. After all, those doing ministry at AiG are made up of Christians from various denominations.
Please pray for us to stay focused and to walk this line with kindness and respect.